McLaren: Car upgrades and understanding tyres ‘top of to-do-list’
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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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!


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.


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.

Craig in Manila

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 !


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.

tom in adelaide

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).


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.


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



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.


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


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.


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


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.



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?!


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


Not that I’m aware of


“quite noticeable” upgrades = appearance -> stated

“quite noticeable” upgrades = performance -> desired


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.


Their development seems to be gloat listing.


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.


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?


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.


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….!).

Riccardo Consulini

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)


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

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


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?!!


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?


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…


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.


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?!?!


He will never drive for Ferrari.


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


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?

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