McLaren has reshuffled its engineering staff at the race track, giving both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button new race engineers, who have been promoted from junior roles.
It is a statement of how careful they are trying to be to appear even handed between the two drivers.
With painful experiences of Fernando Alonso’s year at the team, where allegations were made of preferential treatment towards Hamilton, McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale has promoted Hamilton’s old engineer, Phil Prew, to chief engineer and has taken two equally qualified junior race engineers and promoted them to the main roles for their respective drivers.
Prew will oversee both sides of the garage and ensure that information is shared. This will be interesting to watch as Button has certainly used Rubens Barrichello’s set-ups in the past at Honda and Brawn and we will see whether he and Hamilton go the same way more often than not and who takes the lead.
Both drivers are starting afresh with new engineering teams but the impression Neale is trying to give is that there is no established favouritism going into this partnership.
“When Jenson visited MTC, one of the questions he asked was, ‘Is this Lewis’s team?’ and the answer was ‘Yes, of course it’s Lewis’s team… as it was Heikki Kovalainen’s team, Fernando Alonso’s team, Juan Pablo Montoya’s, and Kimi Raikkonen’s, ” said Neale. “And it will be your team as well.
“Is this Lewis’s team to the exclusion of any other high-performance driver? Absolutely not. At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we love winning drivers – and we want to go about telling the world that story.”
Prue and the other race engineer Mark Slade had been in their roles for 15 years with McLaren. Prior to Hamilton, Prew engineered David Coulthard and Juan Pablo Montoya, while Slade engineered Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso and Heikki Kovalainen. Slade is still with McLaren and his new role will become clear in the next few weeks.