McLaren confident MP4-27 still quick enough to win
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Jun 2012   |  11:23 am GMT  |  87 comments

McLaren’s MP4-27 retains the underlying pace that it showed right at the start of the season, according to the team’s managing director Jonathan Neale, who believes both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will be contention to win this weekend if the team cracks the Pirelli tyre conundrum around the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve.

From suggestions that the Woking outfit could dominate the opening phase of the year following a one-three at the Australia season-opener, the team heads into this weekend’s Montreal race looking to bounce back from a series of races when a combination of operational mistakes and disappointing race pace have meant neither of their drivers have finished on the podium since China in April.

But speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in with journalists on Thursday morning, Neale remained convinced that race-winning performance was still very much in the car, particularly with updates coming on stream, and it was all about rediscovering some consistency.

“The car definitely has the pace and the upgrades are coming through thick and fast,” he said. “But it is very tight. You’re only looking at a tenth or two and you can move a lot of places during qualifying. And we’ve seen Jenson being very unlucky, or not quite getting the car into the right spot with his engineering team during the last two races. On the one hand that makes it very exciting for everyone who’s a fan of the sport watching the races. If you’re a managing director of a Formula 1 team it’s a different game altogether!

“We’ve got to be much more consistent and I’m confident the pace is there in the car and we continue to push hard with our upgrade packages.” He went on to add: “Both drivers have got a car underneath them that can win this race if we can get the tyres consistently into the sweet spot.”

Button’s form has been particularly affected by difficulties in getting the best out of Pirelli’s tyres but Neale insisted “we’re not that far away and I’m confident that he can” rediscover a more consistently stable car throughout a race weekend. He also pointed out that the team’s much-maligned pit-stop record this season, which has coast Hamilton plenty points in particular, was improving race-by-race.

“Of course any operational mistake is costly in Formula 1,” he acknowledged. “When you make an operational mistake at the front of the grid having put the car on pole position that’s incredibly painful, and our Bahrain pit stop wasn’t spectacular. But if anybody is actually doing the math and charting where are the quickest stop times coming from on pit stops you’ll see that ours are consistently improving and will improve again during the course of this weekend if our plans to fruition. Also on our launches, we’ve been consistently one of the best cars off the grid.”

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The worst thing about all of this is not the pit stop cock-ups, the cars’ lack of race pace or the team’s inability to understand the tyres. It’s Jonathan Neale saying, “..doing the math..” Yet another step down the road of Americanisation – but maybe it’s not quite as bad as people on the Beeb calling London’s MALL the “MORLE” on the Jubilee coverage.


James could we have a table of track temperature ranges and air temperature ranges from all the first 6 races…. im guessing this information can tell us which cars are fast in which temperature ranges…vital info for the sundays i feel! i do realize track temperature evolves constantly…but in general they must remain +/- 5-7C..thanks


This car is very quick…. on Saturday! Just look at the difference at the end of Q3 on the *aero-dependant* Catalunya circuit (yes, Lewis was underfueled but the margin gained was minimal). Their problem is transferring this pace advantage into a race stint. The pace in qualifying suggests to me that the car can switch the tyres on quite well, i.e. get heat into them efficiently. I wonder then, if this is the problem during the race, with the car taking too much out of its tyres??? :s (Its just a suggestion).

The issues with Button seem very complicated and may take a while to fix. Hes obviously not happy and the radio conversations/rants say it all. It just may be Button himself. I wonder if Mclaren now regret signing him for the long-term 😉

As for Mclaren being brilliant at developing a car over the course of a season…. I have to say its a myth. It was the case once upon a time but not anymore.

I see the car doing well at circuits with more high speed corners and I feel they will bounce back but will they be able to do so consistently?


“And we’ve seen Jenson being very unlucky, or not quite getting the car into the right spot with his engineering team during the last two races.”

How on earth can that guy say with a straight face that failing to find the right setup can be down to luck?

To read quotes like that, as well as talk of improving pit stops race by race, makes you think this is a new team trying to find their feet in F1… not one of the supposedly best teams on the grid.


McLaren, ruining Lewis Hamiltons races since 2007.

Steven Pritchard

Button has had a few bad races. And still less than one victory behind Hamilton, if he can get enough heat in the tyres for qualifying (and indeed get a track where overtakes are possible) you won’t see the same issues.

Hamilton is showing some mature form this year, I hope he keeps it up.


The proving ground for F1 cars is Barcelona not Monaco and at that track it was Hamilton on pole by more than 1/2 a second and he had a good race from last to finish 8th.

Monaco did not suit the car and it would be unfair to write off the MP4-27 because of that race. Remember Mark Webber who won in Monaco was lapped in Barcelona and Ferrari were lapped in Bahrain.

Montreal may also not suit the MP4-27 but once we come back to the proper race circuits (i.e. from Silverstone), I expect the MP4-27 to be back at the front provided Mclaren can keep up with the development race, which they usually do.

Infact, we could get a clearer picture of the F1 2012 pecking order in Valencia, barring any issues with the unpredictable tyres or the weather. Since 2008, the winning team at Valencia has always gone on to win the constructors’ championship as well as the driver’s championship bar 2008 (Massa).


“Button’s form has been particularly affected by difficulties in getting the best out of Pirelli’s tyres”

Button’s form was not affected, like I’ve said in the past, he’s just not top WDC material. He needs a car to be in a very precise trim to work for him, rather than him adapting to the car and work around difficulties (i.e. Hamilton, Alonso).

Like JA said previously, top drivers are about adapting to a car that makes them worthy of being at the top. I don’t think there is anyway you can deny that.


Is that a statement of fact or just an opinion?


Set back for this year will be not to stay too close to the car in front, hence overtaking will not be spectacular. More undercut moves and obvious DRS moves.

Teams are getting used to the tyres so looks like more pit strategies will be apparent as the season goes by.

Raikkonen for the seventh winner this weekend.


Mclaren are like the English soccer team, they suffer fro expectation anxiety.


I have a theory about this. I say this as someone who has seen the media in England and Italy.

If Italy don’t win a tournament, they are destroyed by the press. They wouldn’t have a celebration tour for quarter final position.

Over here we are disappointed if England doesn’t win, naturally, but if we get to the quarter finals, it’s seen as an achievement.

I don’t agree with Italian way at all, but we really need to raise our minimum requirements here regarding achievement

Stephen Kellett

Read that article again. Go on, do it.

How many statements did you read that initially sounded positive that were then carefully qualified with an “if”?

Far, far too many.

Not a confident team.


Big weekened for Mclaren, another poor showing in Canada and will Ron Dennis be tempted to become more involved in the F1 side of the Mclaren operation with the likes of Whitmarsh and Michael picking up their p45’s?


When looking at managing the tyres, Alonso seems to be the best. In Monaco he dropped back from Hamilton to run in clean air yet when Hamilton stopped, Alonso pushed on well looked after tyres and took him in the pit stop. McLaren need to learn from this


That’s Alonso at his very best driving at over 300kph with his brain thinking faster than the speed of his spinning wheels. That’s one of the qualities which makes him the most complete driver currently.

Hamilton is as fast if not faster than Alonso, but lacks that little bit of intelligence that makes him not quite on the same level as Alonso. Maybe more experience will make Hamilton the next most complete driver.


i actually see it as Alonso had massa riding shotgun for him so had the luxury toLOOK AFTER HIS TYRES!

a rival behind him wld have resulted in a more defensive drive and therefore more tyre wear

no other top team driver has that privilage. Although Mclaren take it to extremes. Button behind Hamilton would have required Hamilton defending too.


My friend, this was Monaco, no-one overtook at the front. Give me a break..




Alonso also was extremely careful about his application of throttle, only when the car was straight, so as to prevent wheelspin.

The problem is, this was Alonso using his intelligence, it wasn’t Ferrari as Massa didn’t do any of this.

So Mclaren could learn from this but can the drivers?


That’s it! But still a lot of people were commenting after the race that “Masse was faster than Alonso during significant parts of the race” and even suggesting that Alonso was holding Massa as the Brazilian is not allowed to pass him. Ridiculous!


Mclaren make basic errors and always over complicate things.

You didn’t need a crew back at Mclaren HQ to tell you that Vettel was going to pit at some point. Why was Hamilton so far behind Alonso and not told to be on his gearbox? Absolute schoolboy and why they have won only one world title in over 10 years.


They only won that one (2008) because Lewis managed to ‘get past’ a car in the last corner on the last lap!

I think the problem with McLaren is the total lack of good management, since Ron Dennis left they have been going down hill rapidly & all this ‘we are a team’ & the drivers engineers share ‘everything’ is costing them.


Hamilton was told to look after his tyres, a bit earlier in the race if I remember right. I guess that’s why he wasn’t on Alonso’s gearbox. But the team should have told him to push hard once they knew Vettel was going to pit. Even in that lap alone I think Hamilton could have done enough to get ahead of Vettel by pushing hard, as Vettel came in front only by something like 0.5 seconds.


Well Williams won nothing in over ten years. It doesn’t matter whether they did win or not, it’s about whether they did do their best or not.

2010 was well liked coz absolutely everyone pushed to their limits to take the fight to the final round, and even though Alonso, Webber and Hamilton all lost, you know they gave their best and content with that.

Williams won nothing in the last ten years and still a team that’s well respected up and down the grid and around the world.


Maclarens are always optimistic. Always…

I do not believe Canada suits their car as much as it suits Mercedes in particular. For other races though they will be the car to beat. Just not this one as Monaco as well was not the case.

My judgement is not quite good lately though… But still this seems way out of reality.


Time will tell, its all about setting your car with Pirelli tyres and the sweet spot in terms of tyres operating windows.


Dry and warm. Steering column better than the one the team dished up in Monaco. No bungles in quali.

Kimi is on that podium.

Who with?

I hope Button, Vettel

I suspect it might be Hamilton, Alonso if its cool and damp.


Richard (first comment) is correct. For three years now McLaren’s ‘vocal’ machine both before and after races has far out-performed the ‘car’ machine on a Sunday. I could give many examples of this. I’ve noticed over the same period two other teams (in particular)have tended to keep quiet, and then they’ve delivered the results on track. Why don’t McLaren adopt the same tactic? At least then all our expectations would not be on the rollacoaster we’ve been on recently, and I reckon the results would start to come through too. What do you think James?

I continue to love all your writing … and the commentary on BBC 5 Live. BRILLIANT !!

Chris Searle


Because they are tied, by sponsorship contract, to a telecom company named Vodafone and I guess this makes them compulsory to be vocal about it lol, hence these “Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in interview”s.

To be honest I get pretty annoyed with them gotta be so obvious about their sponsorship arrangement and specifically call it “Vodafone phone-in”.


McLaren has a serious management problem.


F.Alonso trying to derail the giant opposite? 😀 heh


Team McLaren is not in good shape. My guess of their main problem is some kind of disconnection between their engineers and their drivers, and above all the seemingly inability of their senior guys to solve this problem.

Tornillo Amarillo

McLaren works to do better, but all this bla-bla IMO is to lure Hamilton to stay. Between lines, I think now McLaren needs to lure, to retain, that’s the concept for me.

Just pay $99 millions to him and this is it.

Was it in Canada than Hamilton visited the Red Bull trailer?


Yes it was but it was only to borrow a cup of sugar.


So fustrating. Normally Mclaren start slow and develop brilliantly during the season.

The one year they start with a superb base package they go backwards.


I think that’s a view that many have of Mclaren, sometimes forgetting that the reason they develop “brilliantly” is because improvements to a poor baseline shows the most significant gains.

Can anyone actually say RBR didn’t develop at the same speed last year? Yet because they were dominant to begin with, nobody noticed it.

Ferrari this year has had to develop faster than their rivals, so surely they have been brilliant this year?

It’s the law of diminishing returns, the faster the car is out of the box the less can be gained by development.

A great season to see what happens when the dominant car cannot maintain development pace through the year is 2009.

Brawn launched an absolutely awesome machine. It dominated during the 1st half of the season, winning 6 out of 7 races, RBR winning the other, but from the British GP onwards, they won only 2 with Barrichello. RBR meanwhile won a further 5.

We all know that Brawn didn’t have the money to develop at the same rate as the others, hence being caught and over taken.


“When you make an operational mistake at the front of the grid having put the car on pole position that’s incredibly painful, and our Bahrain pit stop wasn’t spectacular.”

Wasn’t spectacular?! I suggest their performance in Monaco ‘wasn’t spectacular’, their performance in Bahrain was pretty spectacular (spectacularly awful).


I was surprised to hear M. Whitmarsh say that it is only L. Hamilton who has got a chance to challenge the likes of S. Vettel this year, and he will do so as his car will improve soon. He said that in an interview with a German Sunday paper last week. What about Button? Is he going to play the assistant role soon? Is/will Button be capable of helping Hamilton at all?


I read that comment too actuallt .. but I think the question was referring specifically to lewis hamilton.


Really? Did he say that Button is not a contender, in the same way as Lewis is?

Strange how that went unreported in the British F1 press ….


I always rated J Neale highly because he said it directly like it is. But now he starts the same pointles bla bla bla than Whitmarsh. Typical Rallying cards.

Truth is McLaren is THE big dissappointment so far this season. Threy messed up Every race so far at least for Lewis Hamilton. They lost tonns of points due to incompetence and sloopyness. The management should ask themselves some serious questions

Bring Back Murray

Nicely put. Wouldn’t be suprised if Lewis says enough is enough this season. But what are his options?


He doesn’t have any options.

Ultimately Mclaren will always be in the top 3 or 4 teams, They have proved that for decades now, but they haven’t had a truly leading car for 14 years?

You could argue 2007 and 2008, but it was 50/50 with the Ferrari’s that year.

The only serious long term options is Ferrari, a similar giant of F1 but Alonso is there. Mercedes or any team employing Newey.

Anybody else, would mean Hamilton doing a Fittipaldi or J Villeneuve and effectively throwing his career away.

Mclaren is fully aware of this which is why they can play hardball with Lewis.

Bring Back Murray

Red Bull is surely the only feasible option but it just doesn’t feel that likely does it. When have you heard Horner making any significant noises about Lewis?

Lewis is fast enough to get three or four WDC’s under his belt, but I can’t help thinking if something doesn’t happen in the next year or two he’ll have missed his window.

Come on McClaren – sort it!!!

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