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Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Aug 2012   |  1:42 pm GMT  |  37 comments

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh believes the performance the team showed in the two races immediately prior to the summer break has set it up to have a real crack at both world championship titles over the remainder of the season.

The Woking squad had looked in danger of being cut adrift in the battle for the drivers’ championship in particular after disappointing race performances in Valencia and Silverstone but a big upgrade for the German Grand Prix provided a much-needed breakthrough with Jenson Button finishing second there and Lewis Hamilton then winning the following weekend in Hungary.

Hamilton is in the group of four drivers within two race victories of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, with the team back into second place in the constructors’ standings, and on the eve of the season resuming Whitmarsh is confident McLaren is right in the hunt.

“We had a couple of good races before the break. Since then we’ve continued to push hard to develop our car,” he told journalists in a Vodafone phone-in. “We’ve passed the half-way point of the season but the season is incredibly open.

“Fernando and Ferrari have done a good job to be where they are but with nine races to go with the performance we were showing going into the break then we should be focused on winning more races and still very focused on the championships. I think everyone recognises they are wide open and certainly we are in contention.”

With races at high-speed Spa and Monza always neccessitating new wing packages, Whitmarsh says the MP4-27 will feature visual differences from this weekend but has denied speculation that a Mercedes-style double DRS device will appear on the car – admitting developing such a system hadn’t been at the top of the team’s priorities.

“I think you’ll see in the next couple of races [that] the majority of cars will have new wings. You’ll certainly see that on the McLaren,” he admitted. “At any one moment, as you would imagine, [we have] a wide variety of development projects ongoing and the double DRS is interesting. It hasn’t received the maximum amount of resource, we’ve got a finite amount of resource and we try and spend it where we get the biggest bang for our buck and our judgement so far is that we’ve been able to find other projects that deserve that resource and we’ve had a greater performance return from.

“I think there are other variants of it starting to be seen so they might not all follow a pattern that we saw on the Mercedes, which was innovative. But we’re not announcing when, where or if we’re going to introduce it. I think people will see different wing variants, certainly on our car, and you’ll see a number of other visual items on our car [at Spa]. So McLaren will not have a double DRS in Belgium.”

Whitmarsh also said that, despite trailing Hamilton by 41 points and overall leader Alonso by 88 points, Jenson Button was still free to go for wins as normal – although admitted that the situation would be reassessed in several races’ time.

“There may well come a point [when they have to evoke team orders] but I think with nine races to go if you look at the number of points, 25 points per race win, things can change quite quickly. McLaren’s prided itself on going into each season giving both drivers equal opportunity to win races and the championship and therefore we’ve got to be measured about when we talk to those drivers about putting their support behind another driver,” he said.

“So we go into what I hope is going to be a very exciting Belgian Grand Prix and I can assure you that both of our drivers will be trying to win that race and we will be doing everything we can to give both of them the opportunity to have a go at it. I think it’ll be quite a few races time [before] we look at the situation and we’ll make a decision then.”

Following talks over the summer break, Whitmarsh also added that he expected Hamilton’s future at the team to be resolved in “fairly short order”.

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37 Comments
  1. Kay says:

    Button certainly won’t like to hear the need to support his teammate. Team orders is something he is really really against, evident from 2010 when he said something like Alonso needed to win by more than 7 points in order to prove the WDC is worthy. Of course that didn’t happen, but just saying.

    On that within two wins though, it’s certainly not two wins if Alonso keeps coming in second at every race from now on till the end of the season…

    1. LD says:

      Agreed about Jenson.

      He is ultra sensitive when it comes to both driving equipment and mental focus. He’ll get better results for the team thinking he’s in with a shout at the WDC than he will thinking he’s playing No.2 for Lewis. The moment he stops believing he’ll go back to his mid season form, struggling to stay int he Top 10 of races and doing more damage to McLaren’s WCC hopes.

      1. blackmamba says:

        The problem with MacLaren is that they are focusing too many resources trying to make the car suit Jenson instead of him adapting to the car.
        It’s not so much making him a No2 driver than stopping all that molly coddling and focusing on the team as a whole!
        Take all that hoo ha with the rear suspension for example, they stopped bringing updates to the car and lost pace and fell behind other teams while they were focused on pleasing Jenson. That is a crime in my book and now they are playing catch up!!!!

  2. Martin says:

    Lol be a miracle if they win one of them, one WDC and zero WCC in 12 years is a very very poor return considering the hundreds of millions of pounds they and Mercedes have pumped in.

    1. blackmamba says:

      Miracle is too strong a word don’t you think Martin. It’s gonna be more of a Miracle if Alonso can hold off 2 charging RedBulls, a MacLaren and a Lotus because at this moment in time they are all faster than him.
      Remember it takes only one of them for him to lose the title, which is definitely his at the moment.

  3. galway123 says:

    With qualifying being less important and race pace more crucial in Spa I’m thinking Mcl will struggle – expect button to be better than Lewis

    1. Mitchel says:

      -1 to both points! I hope….

      1. Elie says:

        Thats a tough call..considering
        1.Mclaren were fastest by a long shot on last (fast)sector at Hungary and 2.Lewis is usually ballistic at Spa. (hoping is aunty passing wont bring him down)

      2. Mitchel says:

        That’s what I was saying, no?

      3. aezy_doc says:

        re:mitchell. Elie I believe was replying to post #3

      4. Elie says:

        Yep agreeing with you Mitchel !

    2. blackmamba says:

      @galway123

      Haven’t you learnt not to write-off any of the top teams through the course of the season so far? If you wish for them to struggle then say so, not just make baseless statements.
      Same goes for Button beating Lewis, I prefer to wait until after the first 2 practice sessions at least to be able to make an informed judgement not just go on sentiment!

  4. **Paul** says:

    I should hope Jenson is still free to go for wins given we’re only 55% into the F1 season! The time to start playing the team game is after Korea/India if you’ve one driver who is 50pts+ ahead.

    I fancy McLaren to go well at Spa, although if I were a betting man I’d have an each way on Kimi for a podium; the guy is a legend round Spa!

    1. Mitchel says:

      I think at this stage in the season with Lewis scoring 61% or the team’s points and Jenson 39%, if it stays the same after the next race:-

      Back Lewis 100%

      1. JamesR says:

        Back Lewis 100%….. my advice is to keep your money in your pocket.

  5. goferet says:

    Yeah, I was really surprised by Mclaren’s turn of fortunes from Germany, I really thought they had let this year slip through their fingers again.

    No wonder Lewis has been a happy chappy since his #Lewis100 race in Germany, maybe he knows the team has found something.

    Yes, mighty impressed by the never-say-die attitude of the girls & boys back at Woking also by Whitmarsh and his countless positive statements.

    Now, I say, the team should re-think their equal driver status policy for that only works when a team is well ahead of everybody in the standings.

    As things stand, Lewis can’t afford to leak any points especially to his teammate from here on out, every point counts since Fred has such a huge advantage.

    Also if you recall, Jenson was urging the team last season that if they’re to mount a serious WDC title challenge then they should back one driver.

    Luckily I guess, this season, there have been few races where Jenson has out raced Lewis so a scenario arising that requires team orders being implemented is rather slim.

    Regards Lewis’ contract negotiations, he should forget haggling about keeping the trophies (for Ron Dennis is never going to back down) and just sign already.

    You see, I hadn’t realized what a good record the team had and hence all over a sudden, am all for Hammy sticking with the team for life.

    Look, everybody knows Ferrari is the most successful team in terms of WDC titles but if one is to rate Ferrari’s record to that of Woking when Mclaren joined the sport in 1966, then the the picture gets distorted, so what i.e.

    Since 1966, Mclaren is the most successful team in F1 with 12 WDC to Ferrari’s 9 and not only that, ever since Mclaren was born, they have won at least 2 WDC titles every decade with the Senna decade being the most successful which saw they nail 5 WDC titles.

    So yeah, Lewis, get on with it, I say.

    P.s.

    Meanwhile condolences messages go out to Lewis’ family for the loss of his dear aunt Diane.

    1. Flo says:

      2 WDC every decade??? I think they only won 1 in the last decade 2000 – 2010 and tht was won by Lewis in 2008…..or Did I get my decades wrong

      1. Ben B says:

        If you were to count their decades from when they started (1966) – they still have 4 years left to win at least 2 WDC per decade.

  6. Raj Shekhar says:

    One retirement from any of the leading contenders and it makes such a huge difference point-wise. Think not finishing is the greatest threat to anybody seriously looking to win the Title. Alonso included. Spa should be fun. Anything said BEFORE the race would be speculating..

    1. KRB says:

      I think Alonso will have the 24-straight point finishes in the back of his mind, so I think if he’s in front of a faster car, that the driver behind can be reasonably assured that he won’t fight any pass too hard. As I’ve said before, Alonso’s main aim is to make sure he’s in the title fight at the very end.

      I have NO idea what’s going to happen, if I’m honest. McLaren looked fast in the last two races, but dreadful in the two races before that. Lotus looked good in Hungary, so-so in Germany, and fairly good in Britain. Ferrari was ok in Hungary, good in Germany, and good in Britain. RBR obviously very good in Britain, and then decent in both Germany and Hungary. It’s all finely poised.

  7. goferet says:

    *Fun fact*

    Maybe Mclaren should always launch their upgrades in Germany and not Silverstone for Germany has most certainly been kind to the team.

    For instance Mclaren also launched their 2009 upgrades in Germany which went on to work really well and if am not mistaken, Lewis went on to be the strongest driver in the second half of the season albeit with a couple of retiremente e.g. Germany when he again got his tyre slashed by somebody from behind.

  8. Baghetti says:

    Isn’t it lovely, those two periods in the year where everything always seems possible for everyone: just before the season starts and just before the end of the summer break…:-)

    RBR and Ferrari surprisingly quite though, so I guess these two will be the real title contenders

    1. aezy_doc says:

      rbr and ferrari are as vociferous as any other team, it just depends on who is asking the questions and where it gets reported.

    2. KRB says:

      Yeah, I hope it’s not McLaren just indulging their penchant for talking before the result is in.

  9. Rach says:

    You have to admire Whitmarsh’s optimism!!

    The facts are that with the car they have (not a clear dominant car) they have to be strategic and employ Button in a Massa role. Both as a backup and also as a way of ruining Alonso’s or the nearest competitor to Hamilton. How many times have we seen Massa exit pits right in front of a rival and then get tangled up with him!

    They won’t do this and as a consequence will win nothing.

    1. Sahir Siddiqui says:

      Deploy Button in a Massa role? Huh? Massa hasn’t done a thing to help Alonso this year.

  10. Graham says:

    Maybe I am a bit misty eyed and niaive, but I would like to think that team-mates are ALWAYS driving for each other, by virtue of the fact that they are driving for the team.

    For example, at Spa, 10 laps to go, Lewis is 1st, Alonso 2nd and JB 3rd. JB would push on and try to take 2nd, not jus for his own points, but for the team, ergo, allowing Lewis to close the gap further on Alonso.

    This would apply to all teams, I am not just being a Mclaren fanboy ;-)

    G

    1. James Clayton says:

      “For example, at Spa, 10 laps to go, Lewis is 1st, Alonso 2nd and JB 3rd. JB would push on and try to take 2nd, not jus for his own points, but for the team, ergo, allowing Lewis to close the gap further on Alonso.”

      Well that goes without saying, as Button would clearly want 2nd place for himself anyway.

      Now rethink the situation with Button 1st, Hamilton 2nd, Alonso 3rd.

    2. KRB says:

      Well of course, that’s an easy scenario to agree with. But say LH is on a 3-stopper, and JB a 2-stopper, and LH comes out behind JB right after stopping for new boots. I would hope that JB would move over and let LH through, as they’re on different strategies, and holding LH up for any amount of time is just hurting the overall team result. But would he? Or say LH and JB were running 1-2 at the start of the race … should JB run LH hard, or is it better for the team that JB allow LH to open up a lead? No doubt better for JB’s tires, and you could say to JB that he should conserve fuel early and then he can go higher-engine mode later in the race.

      1. Mark Li says:

        A similar scenario did happen at Silverstone Button and Hamilton on different strategies, but Button did not let Hamilton through quickly enough.

  11. Elie says:

    Theres absolutely no point of Talking about team orders if Jenson cant even get close to the back of Alonso First !. He needs to be a top 6 contender before team strategy comes in ,and if he is better than 3 then there is no need for team orders!

  12. Karen says:

    Oh I dread finding these pieces where Whitmarsh/someone at McLaren is saying how the car has a new this or that and is now the fastest and will win the WDC etc,.. because generally the very next race everything seems to go t*ts up

  13. chrisnz says:

    Even if it turns out they have the most competitive package for the rest of the season, you can see one way or another McLaren throwing it away somehow. The general widespread confidence in McLaren being able to deliver on expectations seems to have dipped somewhat given their failure to do so in recent years.

  14. Rich C says:

    I know its Whitmarsh’s job to talk but could he just not, for once? Is it genetic or something?

    Everytime he says stuff it turns out the other way.

    Couldn’t he just smirk knowingly and keep it shut?

  15. Dave Deacon says:

    I don’t believe the tyre excuse for JB. He did well enough in Australia… I think McLaren(Ron) oddly want LH to be there at all costs. I think JB has been scuppered since Bahrain to that end. Look at Hungary. Look at DC. They’re fair when it suits their purpose, else they’re ruthless in pursuit of their goals. LH is not the golden boy they think he is anyway and as time passes even less so. They could have had the WDC had they let JB race. Now, I doubt they’ll get anything. Twerps the lot!

    1. KRB says:

      Why would they do this, when their stated main aim is to win the Constructors?! As others have said, Button is great when the car suits him, but can’t drive through problems in the way that LH or FA can. If there’s even a hint of truth in what ‘blackmama’ above said about McLaren holding back updates while searching for what was causing Button grief, then that would be criminally stupid.

  16. James Clayton says:

    Comments from Whitmarsh and Neal recently lead me to conclude that McLaren ploughed too many resources at the beginning of the year into working on one of these double drs devices to no fruition, at the expense of developing the rest of the car.

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