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Lewis Hamilton
McLaren: Car upgrades and understanding tyres ‘top of to-do-list’
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McLaren
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Jul 2012   |  8:00 pm GMT  |  66 comments

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh is promising the team’s underperforming MP4-27 will feature a number of “quite noticeable” upgrades at Hockenheim this weekend, as the Woking team bids to close back up in the championship battle before the summer break.

The team’s general slip in competitiveness relative to traditional main challengers Red Bull and Ferrari, along with the consistently threatening Lotus team, in particular since the opening rounds of the season has been underlined by its failure to record a race finish higher than eighth in the last two races, with its wretched Silverstone result representing the team’s worst two-car finish since 2009.

Even before the British GP, which the team had initially entered with confidence, McLaren had flagged up that it would introduce a bigger upgrade package in Germany and today Whitmarsh revealed a snapshot of what that the developments entailed – with revised sidepods a key element of change.

“The sidepods from the front to the rear are quite different so you’ll notice those and there are other bits and pieces that the sharper-eyed will see,” he said in the latest pre-race Vodafone phone-in with journalists. “And clearly there are some parts which are hidden to the naked eye. They are the main area of modifications. They will be reasonably noticeable.”

Whitmarsh believes the now perennial 2012 problems of getting Pirelli’s tyres in the correct operating range was the main contributing factor behind McLaren’s Silverstone struggles, with the team experiencing graining on the soft tyre in the race.

“I think for everyone, not just McLaren, trying to understand how to work the tyres correctly is quite a substantial challenge. So eliminating mistakes, improving the performance of our car and understanding the tyres and seeing if we can exploit them better are all on the top of our to-do list,” he added.

In wake of Lewis Hamilton’s comments earlier this week that he would look to resolve his McLaren future one way or the other during the summer break, Whitmarsh also reitrated his confidence that the 2008 world champion would sign a new, multi-year deal to take him into 2013.

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66 Comments
  1. Haydn Lowe says:

    For the first time in memory I’m really hoping that McLaren can get their act together. As a Ferrari fan it’s imperative that they improve just enough to take as many points as possible off Red Bull, just not too many of Alonso! At the same time, as many contenders as possible for the season finale has got to be a good thing and at the moment I can see Hamilton and Button being well out of it without significant car improvements.

  2. Irish con says:

    I for one think lewis wants out of mclaren but I don’t see him having many options to leave this year. I think he will stay put this year and will look at his options for the 2014 season. He still young yet so no panic.

    As for this weekend the long straights could slow the bulls down enough for lotus, Mercedes and Ferrari to challenge over a short lap.

    1. Gord says:

      I wonder if Hamilton would be willing to do what Alonso did and downgrade a team ?

      1. TobyS says:

        Doubt it as Alonso had the advantage that he knew Renault, so knew his pit crew, how the team worked etc. Lewis has been with McLaren all his live (seem like it), so it wouldn’t be as easy a jump.

      2. Quattro_T says:

        I think he should be doing what Alonso did when he, expecting having a race winning car from the start, found himself with a Ferrari lapping 1.5 seconds off the pace of the best. Start acting like true a leader in difficult times – focus on the positivs, build up the moral and confidence within the team, provide visions, and do whatever else is needed to getting this already very good team to work even better and harder to get back on the right track. Jumping ship is just weak and not characteristic for true champions.

      3. Justin Bieber says:

        Alonso did it because he had no choice. Hamilton will only do it if he has no choice.

      4. Quattro_T says:

        I think Alonso have had all the chances in the world, in the past three seasons having a bad car, to express publically the massive disappointment that he (must have) felt during this period. While Hamilton have had the equipment to have poles, Alonso have not for 2 years (until luck showed up in Silverstone). Still I do not recall him even once showing in the media bad emotions against his team, moan on the radio when things go bad or do other things that can make your team members feel not so united in rough times. Let alone signalling interrest in changing teams. On the contrary – he went on and signed a (very long) contract, while others were saying publically it was a bad move. Because he has no choice? I think not – rather because he knows that only when he shows 100% committment in good and bad days, he will be able to demand the same from his personell.

        Having said all this I do agree Hamilton need to change teams. Not because Mclaren is a bad/uncompetitive team however (RBs’ dominance cycle may soon be over and Mclarens’ start), but because change will provide him with new challenges and chances to grow as a driver.

      5. Justin Bieber says:

        @Quattro_T: I agree with everything you wrote, I was referring to Alonso going back to Renault. I dont consider Ferrari a step down.

    2. DJFM says:

      Agreed.
      One year deal for Lewis. McLaren get to prove themselves while other teams also get to prove themselves as decent options for 2014.

      1. Justin Bieber says:

        “other teams also get to prove themselves”

        You cant possibly think that any top team need to prove themselves to him? At the moment, there is not a single top team interested in Hamilton except McLaren.

        He will not get a Ferrari drive. Even when Alonso retires, I still dont see him at Ferrari.

        He will not get a Red Bull drive, when Mark leaves/retires a Toro Rosse driver will get a promotion. Vettle will stay there as long as Newey is there. that could be a while.

        He might get a Mercedez drive when Schumi retires if he is will to take a good paycut.

        He will not get a Lotus drive unless Kimi gets fired.. again! Grosjean is there to stay, I could even see him going to McLaren.

        I think Hamilton still has a lot to prove to the 4 top teams than the other way around.

      2. James Clayton says:

        Except all the top teams have said at one stage over the last 12 months that they could never rule out Hamilton driving for them.

        Also:

        “He will not get a Lotus drive unless Kimi gets fired.. again! Grosjean is there to stay, I could even see him going to McLaren.”

        Grosjean is there to stay, but also possibly going to McLaren? Firstly that’s some pretty quick back-peddling. Secondly if Grosjean DOES go to McLaren then there is an opening at Lotus.

      3. Justin Bieber says:

        @James Clayton: There is a huge difference between praising a driver and offering him a contract. I agree that most midfield/backmarker teams would love to have Lewis but you cant say the same for the top team. Everyone agrees that Lewis is extremely quick but he is also moody and is never shy at criticizing the team publicly when things are not to his liking.

        Yes Grosjean is there to stay, his manager is Eric Boulier!! What I meant by the reference to McLaren is that Grosjean is quick enough to get a drive at McLaren but I dont see Eric Boulier getting rid of Grosjean to make space for Hamilton

      4. Mike says:

        Do you really believe that Mclaren would be daft enough to give him a one year deal? Why would they do that? That would give him a drive until he left at the end of next year when there are far more drive options available. It might be what Lewis wants, but it will not be what Mclaren want. I’d be saying multi year deal or nothing. That’s business – that’s F1.

    3. Wayne says:

      I’m not sure Mclaren will allow him to sign a one year deal though, they’ll know exactly what he is up to. They will have to pay a fortune to sign him again at the end of next year when he has other realistic options (unlike now).

      1. Richard Mee says:

        Surely that’s tough **** on McLaren. If they ever get around to building the best car in the field they might find Lewis’ pay demands come down accordingly… Lewis has made it clear he feels he’s repaid McLaren’s investment in him and at the moment Lewis has no more chance of winning another title staying at Woking than he does moving to practically any other team – so I don’t see how McLaren can call the shots on this one…

        I believe he’s only still there because he wants that spanking new F1 that Ron promised him in return for 3 titles!

      2. Dave C says:

        You said it yourself, Lewis hasn’t got a better chance of winning in any other team than Mclaren, so in that care Mclaren can dictate the terms, I font think he is worth 20million euros anyway, now it’s on Mclarens terms, if he joins Williams or Mercedes he will just fade into another midfield runner, best just sign for Mclaren for 15m a year on a 3 year deal or something, maybe after that he would have got another title or 2 he can start demanding Alonso money, or soon to be Vettel money.
        Another point is this year hasn’t been decided yet, I believe Mclaren will turn it around starting this weekend, they will start reeling Alonso in, just a question of not panicking.

      3. Justin Bieber says:

        I don’t know how much more option he will have next year but 1 thing is sure: he will sign a multi year contract with McLaren or he will be driving for mid field team next year.

        He has nowhere to go except McLaren for next year, he has almost no bargaining power.

    4. Ian C. says:

      And just where is Hamilton going to go? I’d bet Alonso gets his contract extended with Ferrari and someone like Perez replaces Massa. Red Bull have Vettel and probably Webber until the end of 2014. M-B haven’t been able to produce a car that can consistently win and there are questions as to whether they even stay in F1. Lotus probably can’t and don’t want to pay him what he’s getting at McLaren. Hamilton is stuck at McLaren. And I don’t believe he wants to leave anyway.

      1. James Clayton says:

        Alonso is contracted with Ferrari until 2016 already; I don’t think either party will be in a hurry to extend that agreement.

        Lotus might not be able to ‘afford’ Hamilton, but they might be able to offer him the one-year deal he’s after.

    5. John M says:

      Why would he want to leave McLaren?

      The team is always a contender. The only real alternative would be moving to another team that is also a contender. Move to Ferrari and be Alsono’s backup? I doubt that has any appeal. Move to Red Bull where Vettel is the golden boy for at least a couple more years? Why?

      To me, talk to Hamilton wanting to leave McLaren is crazy. He has one of the best seats in F1. Any move would be lateral, or down. Given his history with McLaren and the team’s history of winning, I see him being there for a long time.

  3. goferet says:

    Hopefully these new upgrades will include the lower nose Mclaren had pre- Barcelona, maybe that’s where the missing link is in relation to understanding how to work the tyres.

    Anyway, am placing my faith in Whitmarsh for if he could get on top of the pit stop situation, surely nothing is impossible for him.

    Yes, we need Mclaren back in the game for we most definitely most interested in the battles at the front like what we saw at Monaco 2012 i.e. 6 cars nose to tail.

    Meanwhile, I think the Pirellis are brilliant for if you have something that the boffins can’t figure out till this day, that can only be great news for the fans

    As for Lewis, yes, I too am beginning to think he will be staying (mainly out of gratitude for what the team did for his career) but I can’t say the same for Whitmarsh especially if the team fails to win a thing despite the promising start.

  4. Rob Newman says:

    Due to the difficult weather conditions we had in Silverstone, performance wise it is difficult to judge exactly where all the cars are at the moment. This weekend we may know the true picture.

    McLaren will not be the only team which will be bringing upgrades to Germany. Others are not resting.

    1. Nigel says:

      It’s quite possible that practice and qualifying at Hockenheim will see similarly difficult weather conditions.
      Performance wise, McLaren are well behind the leaders at the moment, and if they don’t get dry weather to test their upgrades, they are likely to stay there.

  5. Serrated_Edge says:

    Is the constant speculation about the future of Hamilton having a adverse effect on the team?

    Every race weekened Whitmarsh, Dennis and other various levels of team management are fielding questions about Hamiltons future.

    IMO the driver line up for next season needs sorting ASAP so McLaren can focus 100% on getting the car performing.

      1. James Clayton says:

        It’s been like it for almost 2 years. I’m sure they’re used to it by now.

    1. McLaren 78 says:

      …and that’s why Lewis wants to sort it out during the summer break, while Whitmarsh says, we’er not in a hurry. Another failure from Whitmarsh there. He has to go, but then again, who can you replace him with? Definitely not Sam Michael.

  6. Alex says:

    As a McLaren fan I really hope the modifications help.

    Just with regard to Lewis, is his management causing problems in terms of cutting a deal? Rather than a lack of willing on Lewis’s part could the problem actually be that his high profile management company is out to achieve a certain return for themselves in addition to Lewis’s interests?

  7. bmg says:

    He could sign for Ferrari, lets face it, they seem to throw the money around quite a bit.

    Hamilton seems to be more motivated by the money he can get, if you believe what Mclaren say.

    1. McLaren 78 says:

      Hamilton wants a winning car, end of. Money is secondary.

    2. tharris19 says:

      He will never drive for Ferrari.

    3. KRB says:

      Money is most definitely secondary. If you could promise him a dominant car like the RB6 or RB7, I’m sure he’d bite your hand off!

      As for McLaren, I’d love it if the upgrades work and/or they figure out how to maximize the tires. Not holding my breath for either. For me, McLaren talk too much and don’t deliver. It seems to me that their designers want to be the next Adrian Newey, and over think things. You have the most powerful engine, you have the best combined driver lineup. So how do they manage to always be at sixes and sevens?!?!

  8. Rich C says:

    Wish he’d just shut up.

    Every time he opens his mouth and promises big improvements nothing happens.

    These pronouncements are obviously intended for ppl who don’t know jack.

    Or… hey maybe he’s talking about their cartoon car?!!

    1. Chris says:

      If McLaren were to spend all this time wasted on PR spin about upgrades and theoretical time gains actually going to work to improve the car, I would be more optimistic. I for one am tired of hearing about what McLaren plans to do. How about just doing it and winning some races?

      1. James Clayton says:

        Wait what? You want the PR department to spend their time on trying to develop the car?

        I’m not sure how much they’d get done…

  9. Kay says:

    The way Martin talks about new stuff gonna be featured on the MP4 sounds like as if he’s trying to sell it!! :D :D :D :D :D

    I don’t think fans care much about looks as long as it wins! :D

  10. Jordan says:

    Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of McLaren always going about their latest upgrades and how they’ll bring x amount of performance etc. They’ve been doing for years now via their phone-ins and so often they underperform. When did we last hear Red Bull or Ferrari regularly bang on about the latest bits n pieces? We don’t! Because they turn up for the weekend and then talk AFTER the event about how upgrades went, instead of talking themselves up beforehand.

    1. Dufus says:

      No, your not alone. Its boring and repetitive with McLaren.
      I know the british press and JA like to talk them up but seriously, sheesh, enough already.

    2. Andrewinwork says:

      I’ll second that, better to work quietly at a new concept, fit it, make it work then sit back and receive the acolades. McLarens philosophy of shouting it from the roof tops just makes for increased tensions when – as usual it doesnt deliver; unless of course MW is having to do it to try to bolster the flagging spirits in his team. Either way it doesnt look good

  11. Riccardo Consulini says:

    I personally think that McLaren don’t stand a chance. They have been behind both RedBull and Ferrari for a number of year now, apart from 2007/2008 (Spygate) and 2011 (Ferrari’s wind tunnel problems). Hamilton don’t have many option this year, but It would be smart of him to sign a one year contract only. That way he would still give McLaren a chance to improve and keep his options open. (Providing the other teams want him, as they pretty much have their number 1 drivers already)

    1. Stickymart says:

      To be fair, everyone has been behind Red Bull in terms of development with teh exeception of the diffuser-based Brawn, and they got caught at the end of that season. I think it’s still reasonably open at the top, all it will take is another win by Lewis (and subsequent lower finish by Webber and or Alonso) and he can still contend for the title. The Championship is still very close. I fear Button hasn’t got a chance now though.

    2. McLaren 78 says:

      I suspect a 2 + 1 contract, the same as Button’s. Vettel will then move to Ferrari in ’15, rather than ’14, thus opening the door for Hamilton to RBR. Having said that, a lot depends on what happens in ’14 on the whole, when the new regs and engines come into play.

  12. Xman says:

    Hamilton is probably the fastest over a single lap, maybe neck and neck with Sebastian actually…. But not much else. His race craft needs improving, his team leadership isnt all there, his concentration is not on the GPs every weekend. It come and goes. His attitude most of the time is either really fustrated or thinking about Nikole too much. Talking about complete package that cam be captain of a team? Lewis is not. And hes not that young any more, i think Hamilton is showing us his real self here, and in mu opinion he has more bows to add to his armory before he has all the top teams bidding for his services like the other top drivers in the field.

    1. Stickymart says:

      Bit harsh don’t you think? He’s been very mature this season and even now (when the car is being outstripped by rivals) he’s not exactly whining to the press, he’s just come out with some very diplomatic responses with regards to how he feels about the team’s performance. His race craft this season has been particularly good and he’s shown massive improvement on last season. Don’t forget that he’s a competitive driver who wants to win titles, I think it’s quite understandable that he gets frustrated when he cannot do this. I’m getting rather angry that so many people slate him for how he chooses to live his life, if a particular woman makes him happy then who are we to judge him? His results this year have most certainly not been tainted by his personal life etc, just by mistakes from his team and a car that just isn’t as good as the others (oh, and Pastor Maldonado….!).

  13. Ian H says:

    McLaren seem to be confident that they can agree a long term contract with Lewis in the coming weeks but if Lewis decides to leave and go to another team what possible replacements are available for McLaren? do you think McLaren are ‘sounding’ out drivers/managers as a contingency plan?

  14. Brendan says:

    I’d be very surprised if McLaren allowed Hamilton to put pen to a one-year deal. As mentioned above, all it will serve to do is push up the cost of any deal if they wish to sign him for 2014, especially if other teams start to show an interest.

    My suspicion is that a 3-year deal will be signed with various get-out clauses attached to allow Hamilton to look at his options in 12-months or so. However, the onus is squarely on Whitmarsh’s shoulders to deliver a package that befits Hamilton’s talents. I’m not sure that he can. Perhaps a management re-shuffle at McLaren is the way forward.

  15. Dave Aston says:

    Their development seems to be gloat listing.

  16. Richard says:

    I certainly hope McLaren will get it together this weekend both in that the upgrades work and they get a better handle on tyre performance. Whether we agree or not with the tyres being the main determining factor is by and by for this season. Personally I think it is extra complexity that the sport can do without after all we wouldn’t give a runner slippy shoes would we. Hamilton is fast running out of viable options as the thing he wants most is a properly competitive car, but I suspect he will continue with McLaren for at least another year providing there is more flexibility with sponsors.

  17. ArJay says:

    “quite noticeable” upgrades = appearance -> stated
    “quite noticeable” upgrades = performance -> desired

  18. Simple says:

    James, is there somewhere you can get a recording or transcript of these mclaren teleconferences?

    1. James Allen says:

      Not that I’m aware of

  19. Marc S says:

    James,

    Slightly off topic – I remeber hearing Lotus had some interesting updates for Germany. Any news on what they are?

    Lotus to finally win a grand prix this season maybe?!

  20. KGBVD says:

    If Ferrari were interested in winning the constructors championship next year, they should ditch Massa for Hamilton.

    Despite everything, their pairing was pretty successful last time out.

  21. Andrewinwork says:

    As much as it saddens me, I think it’s season over for McLaren. Alonso is no mug and will just do enough in every race. Even when he had a dog of a car he brought home regular good points at every race; now with a race winner he’ll be very strong. At best Hamilton can hope to chip away at his lead at a rate of 6 or so points per race. I dont see him having a team strong enough to give him the opportunity

  22. Lawrence says:

    McLaren last won the F1 constructors’ championship in 1998 and in the preceding time-frame have only had one of their drivers win the drivers’ championship. They’ve come close a few times in recent years to winning championships but if I was a sponsor I’d be seriously looking elsewhere. McLaren have had loads of money, brilliant drivers, Raikkonen, Montoya, Hamilton and Alonso but their record is not good. Renault with less money and arguably inferior drivers (with the exception of Alonso of course) won championships. I am only a fan of F1, I have no real knowledge of how the teams are managed but it seems to me their poor results are a consequence of poor management. No wonder there are rumours of Vodafone leaving. Do McLaren have an deal with a good engine supplier in place for 2014? This could be end of McLaren as a top team. It all started with the poor management of the Alonso v Hamilton situation. If they had thrown the efforts behind Alonso that year they could have won multiple championships by now with the momentum that would’ve have created.

  23. Jon says:

    James,

    At the start of the season McLaren looked to have the fastest, most consistent package and it appeared their unique nose design was the right call.

    However, I believe someone (perhaps A. Newey?)acknowledged the McLaren was fast, but with the caveat that keeping the nose low might restrict development & upgrades as the season went on. The idea being the lower the nose, the less space available to manipulate airflow under the car.

    Is their a consensus among teams that this is the case? Is their a belief that McLaren may have limited themselves with the design of the car and that upgrades at the front may not have as great an effect as with other teams with the step nose design? Thanks-love your site.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes to some extent, but their bigger problem is of unbalanced tyre temperatures front to rear

  24. Methusalem says:

    It will be another rainy day in Germany, so, When are they going to test those updates?

  25. f1mikey says:

    Lawrence you have nailed it!
    McLaren got greedy thinking about how great it would be to have our young protege win it all instead of backing the two time WDC.
    Hamilton should have been parked in Hungary in 07 for not listening to the team in qualifying.
    Alonso goes stupid and it’s the end of the road.
    McLaren seems the nearly man every year.

  26. tom in adelaide says:

    If McLaren had any sense they would sign Lewis, develop the car specifically to his needs and hand the bulk of the P.R duties to Jenson. With the amount of money involved it truly astounds me that reality has become so distorted in the Whitmarsh McLaren era. Internal politics and favouritism is costing this team success (my opinion).

  27. Craig in Manila says:

    So, to summarise, he’s had a press conference where he has said that :

    1. He has promised that some upgrades will be visible and some won’t.

    2. Eliminating mistakes, improving the performance the car and understanding the tyres are top-important to the Team.

    Gosh, this is game-changing stuff…. bring it on !

    1. Peter C says:

      One of the problems is that the Press are standing there with their mouths open saying “Say something,say something” – the fans too, for that matter.

      So Whitmarsh comes out with this old trot about upgrades, mistakes,understanding tyres etc., which could apply to any Team just as much.

      McL seem compelled to do this massive PR job all the time. Why? The other Teams don’t do it anywhere near as much, most get on with the job, & if upgrades don’t work they think again, rather than talk to every Pressman in sight & fall short of expectations.

      Ron Dennis used to do it, but more recently it has reached a new level. Martin Whitmarsh is a good Team Manager & calls for his head are over the top, coming mainly from the sofa anyway.

      McL will get back,I’m sure, but they need to keep their own counsel more, which I think would boost confidence within the Team.

  28. Dave Aston says:

    Remember that British team that ran those front engined sportscars? At any time they were considered to be overly pleased with their success, and reminding people of it, they were undoubtedly gloat Lister.

  29. bearforce1 says:

    For all Lewis’s talk I still think he would be more than a little frightened to move to another team. McLaren have to be probably the most consistent team.

    Its a double trouble for Lewis because he has been at McLaren since he was a child and he knows nothing else. McLaren being so consistent provides a nice warm secure feeling of always being able do well and always race at the pointy end. Put those two things together and it makes leaving McLaren a very frightening prospect. Going to any other team brings the very real risk of some seasons being in a poor performing car.

    Personally I would love to see Lewis elsewhere. I am interested to see how he would cope by himself without all the supports McLaren brings. I think of 2011 and the almost breakdown Lewis had under pressure. On the other hand it might be just the thing to strengthen Lewis into an independent stronger character more like Alonso.

  30. Elie says:

    Wow in a season where sometimes 6/10 of a second separates 10 cars and we have 7 (prob 8) different winners from 9 races . People are writing Mclaren off- ridiculous – I reckon they are the best qualified at making their car better an I still think the Mp4 27 is the best design in 2012

    Let’s face it if they find 2to 3/10 this weekend they could most likely win the race.! As for gloating I don’t see that at all ,sometimes they announce “minor” upgrades and others are “significant” because you me and blind Freddy can see them !!-what’s wrong with that ??- I much prefer this than the Ferrari path of “we are no chance of a podium”.. Then Fernando wins the race and is on the podium for three on the trot — absolute bs.. For the lame minded!!
    I still think Mclaren can not only win this weekend but they can still win the WCC. I’m looking for Button to turn his fortune around come Sunday. I still want Lotus to win.

    I think contract talks for Lewis will be a long process because I only see his options at Mercedes if Michael does not get up over the next 3 or 4 races.. & I’m sure Mercedes will be anxious to open up discussions in that Tim ( if they haven’t already done so !!).. I Michael stays Lewis will stay. Then Lewis will be arguing Whitmarsh for a one or two year deal while Whitmarsh will want 3-5 .

    I think Sebastian will qualify on pole.. But he will be hunted down by Fernando , Kimi & Lewis in the end, Grosjean, Webber, Massa close by. Changeable weather could swing this around a bit..either way you would be stupid to write off any of the top 4 teams for the season just yet – especially Mclaren and just watch where they will be by FP3 on Sat!

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