McLaren: When the going gets tough..
McLaren
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Apr 2013   |  6:44 pm GMT  |  176 comments

It’s tough times for McLaren at the moment: Sergio Perez has yet to get his season started while Jenson Button says his team still lack the pace to compete with the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and Lotus despite scoring his best result of the season in China.

The 2009 world champion battled to ninth place in Australia and then failed to finish in Malaysia, after earlier being on target for a top six finish. But in China, buoyed by some new upgrades and a brave strategy, he finished fifth. In each case McLaren has gambled on strategy, because it has less to lose than its rivals, lacking pace as they do.

Button said: “We’re not quick enough to do the same strategy as others. We wouldn’t have finished fifth [without doing a two-stop strategy].

“A lot of the time we are out front and leading, but you can’t forget that you are doing fewer pit stops and quicker cars will be overtaking you. It all came good at the end, and with the pace we did have I think we should be very happy with it.

“I think we should take a lot of positives from here, but also know we have a lot of work to do to challenge at the front.”

Button’s team-mate Perez, however, continued his struggle with form, crossing the line in 11th for his second non-scoring finish in three races.

The Mexican, who joined the team this season after two years at Sauber, has managed just two points for ninth place in Malaysia and twice failed to make it into the final part of qualifying.

In China, he was also criticised by Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton for what they considered to be aggressive defensive moves.

He also crashed twice in Friday practice, first breaking his new front wing after sliding into the gravel on the pit lane entry and then spinning off track and damaging the rear of his car.

Perez said: “This was a difficult afternoon for me – there’s a lot for us to analyse, and a lot to learn. It wasn’t my best weekend in terms of pace, so there’s some work to do.

“I couldn’t find a flow throughout the whole race and was struggling with the car. We still don’t have the speed in the car, but it’s been a useful learning weekend for the whole team.”

However, team boss Martin Whitmarsh says Perez needs to “toughen up” and adapt quickly to his new team.

Whitmarsh said: “He’s been very polite so far this year. He needs to toughen up. He’s been generous in allowing people past him. I told him: ‘You have to be out there racing’. That means sometimes you have got to use elbows and you have got to be robust without being dirty.

“Inevitably, he is still a very young guy in a big team with lots of expectations. We haven’t given him a great car so far, and he is up against someone like Jenson who has done a fantastic job with the car we have given him.

“We, as a team, have to step up and support a young driver who has an enormous amount of talent. And with these tyres that are very fragile, with a car that is not quite there and with tricky racing, he did a reasonable job. But he is not satisfied with himself and nor should he be.”

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1

perez went to pass button and he was crying like a pussy. many other drivers passed button soon after perez passed him and he didn’t cry. perez also went on to pass other drivers ahead of button and they didn’t cry.

button can only prevent perez by learning to drive better.

looks like ron dennis wants to leave mclaren and join hamilton at mercedes.

2

Webber to McLaren? Mark has made some poor choices. He should have gone to McLaren this year then would have had two more years in F1. Sadly I think it’ll be his last year in a top F1 team this year. Looks too much like he’s going to Porsche for whatever they are cooking up…

3

Funny how opinion on Perez was hero last year and trash after 3 races, he must be somewhere in between

Is he the greatest driver ever? obviously not, he would have won Malaysia and Monza last year and would be beating Jenson right now

Is he good enough for a Mac seat? probably yes, but he still has to prove so, at least by qualifying and racing close to Jenson

Is he having problems with a difficult car to drive? definitely, probably the Sauber was slower but more driveable, flattering Perez last year and Hulk this year

Is he a good qualifier, no, he was not in the junior series nor with Sauber, he is more race result points getter ( a bit like Jenson) and with a slow car tends to finish off the points

I think he has more 11th places than anyone else

Does he need to race tougher like Withmarsh says? yes defend better and cleaner, and pass safer

Is he just another paydriver? I don’t think so, Telmex filter is quite tough, they sponsor a lot of drivers in very different series in Mexico and US, if they backed him up is because he is better than average

On top, I understand the Mac deal brings no Telmex sponsorship (at least directly)he was hired on perceived merit at the time

Maybe James has more insight on this?

Did he jump to Mac to soon? Luca and myself think so, if he had stayed one more year at Sauber he would have matured more and consolidated his standing, now it seems he has more pressure than he is able to handle

Will he improve? I certainly hope so, for Mac’s sake and his, otherwise he won’t last long

4

You are full contradictions . If you’re saying he should have stayed at Sauber another how can he be right for the seat? As I said in one of my previous posts Sergio needs an arm round him, a mentor. I was amazed people ridiculed me for suggesting Kimi might be a good mentor.

5

Perez will succeed with McLaren. Just a matter of time.

6

Yeah a matter of time … a long long time or maybe NEVER. Perez is worse than RG at the moment and he has been shocking.

7
Michael Prestia

Perez = Telemex money. Enough said there.

Bianchi should be picked up by Ferrari next year… obviously to replace Massa.

8

Does anyone else feel like McLaren is heading in the same way as Williams? Another fall from grace by a powerhouse F1 team, such a shame. No top three superstar, no engine partner (only a customer deal) and no A-List title sponsor from the sounds of it. I hope Ron’s paid off that technology centre, lol.

9

Started to feel the same some time ago, but then McLaren is starting to become the British Ferrari and make their own cars to help better fund their operation. So they’ll survive better than Williams.

10

ahhh Mclaren the winner of ” how to screw things up award”

11

To all those who are scratching their heads over the Perez pick, I honestly feel their needs to be a bit of patience.

1. The car has not been performing anywhere near the level of the top teams. The qualifying times and race speed are an indication of that. When McL is using 2012 Sauber tyre saving strategy to gain points something is not right. They are scavenging for points. Hence, the low performance with JB & PER

2. I don’t understand how many of you believe HULK should have been the replacement and not PER, especially those that say Perez did nothing to deserve the seat, yet didnt he get 3 podiums to hulk’s 0? Although in a Spanish interview Perez’ dad revealed that from acc. To Perez Hulk is going to be the driver to watch in the future, Hulk did nothing last year to justify a top seat. All of you Hulk lovers only remember his 4th place finish and leading a several laps at Brazil (only to choke that race away). But besides that what else did he do? Perez, at the least has tasted the glory and knows what it is like to fight for a podium on not only 1, but 3 occasions. Most forget that at Malaysia and Monza he started outside the top 10 and pulled off a tremendous result (2nd place). Perez has earned that opportunity with RESULTS that can be measured. After seeing what Sutil tried to do in Australia this year, it becomes evident how hard it is for a mid level team to earn a podium. That’s what makes PER’s results last year all the more credible and strengthen’s his claim for EARNING the seat. One podium may be lucky, but 3 on a mid level/table team shows some skill. Lets see how many Hulk, Di Resta, Sutil, Maldonado and even Grosjean get this year.

We should also think this. If Sergio is a pay driver, when have we seen a pay driver earn 3 trophies recently? He has the skill, but the car isn’t there.

3) It’s almost comical the suggestions on this forum as to who should have been a better fit for the MCL seat. Alguesuari? Really, the man doesn’t even have a ride. If he was so good others would be salivating over him. What does that tell you? Kobayashi? One podium on his home track and he’s better than Perez? When Perez did it 3 times! Kovalainen? If he was so talented couldn’t he have gotten Caterham some points. Di Resta? All he had was one 4th place in Sing. and that makes him and you believe he is ready for the elite. Come on people! PER has shown he can get a car to the front and stay there, not the others while driving similar machines. Maldonado? If he is so quick, why have Williams been way outside the top 10 this year? It is because they drivers are nothing without the car and the right set up.

4. I feel we are too quick to judge and want to set PER up for failure. The true assessment needs to take place in NOV. when the season is over.

12

Perez got his podiums through big gambles on strategy. Kamui got his on sheer pace. Whenever Sauber split their strategies last year, they tended to put Perez out of sync with the leaders and made Kamui go head to head.

13

Did not Perez choke in Malaysia 2012 when he should of won? Hulk has outperformed his equiqment . Sergios podium results flatter to deceive in that he had a car which seemed to use its tyres better than the competition. I think Perez will need to put some good performances in before the British GP or he could be getting the ‘Alan Sugar’ treatment from Mclaren sooner than later.

14

Didn’t Nico choke at Brasil? The one that shouldn’t be talking about the abbility of any driver is Martin Brundle… the guy drove 170 gp’s and got nowhere.

15

Well, Martin Brundle is more qualified to talk about drivers than any people who make comments on this forum , including me & YOU . The fact is he said would rather see Hulk at Mclaren and so would I.

16

For me the clincher with Perez was in pre season testing when we had a bit of a frightened rant to the media about the Pirelli tyres and how they would need to change tyres 7 times a race. A comment that lacked maturity and a measured approach I thought. Yes the tyres wore rapidly but it was a cold winter for the tyres in Europe and his own team at the time even said so. So he said it for effect then perhaps, but again, not something an experienced driver focused on the job at hand would chose to say to the media, it was a bit childish and the Alonsos and Raikonens at the time were getting on with the job. It was obvious then that the boy is young to this game, and will probably spend quite some time making mistakes and breaking cars before he comes good.

Which does not bode well for McLaren’s chances this year of course. Button will pick up some of the pieces but it fares badly for them for the next few years:

They can say goodbye to the championship this year, judging by how well the opposition is doing, even if McLaren catch up, the other teams are strong and McLaren would need to develop a superior car to the Red Bull/Ferrari out of a bad one to overtake them on points (don’t see it).

Then next year they will need to retain Perez even if he does badly this year so that whoever made the call up the foodchain to hire him over Hulk can get the opportunity to save face. Button will stay too so again no top three driver.

Then McLaren is looking at a new engine partner in Honda after that, who will be coming in a year too late with the turbo era and so playing catch-up. And generally speaking new engines take a while to develop into winners anyway (can’t think of a manufacturer who just came into F1 recently and won straight away), so there’s another 2-3 years of not so great results.

By that point the south American money will likely have dried up and McLaren may be in need of cash… A sad state of affairs for a powerhouse team that seems to be in decline.

17

Agree with the majority of people’s opinions about Kobayashi, but I doubt McLaren would hire him. Kobayashi’s a Toyota man, and if Honda were to come back, they’d want to put one of their own men in.

If anything, Kobayashi’s next biggest shot would be at Ferrari (if/when Massa implodes). After all, Kamui’s already got one foot in the door 😀

18

Perez was a Ferrari man, and look where he is now.

Kimi was a McLaren man ended in a Ferrari in his first F1 career.

Webber was a Mercedes-backed man in Le Mans until he joined F1, and was never looked at for an F1 seat in the Merc GP F1 team.

Sauber was a Mercedes team until they joined the F1 party and have been powered by Ferrari for a long time.

So Koby being a “Toyota man” isn’t really a valid point.

19
Adrian Newey Jnr

James – it seemed that no so long ago Di Resta was being groomed for McLaren. Do you think it was only the idea of not having two UK drivers that meant he missed out on the drive?

20

The McLaren-Mercedes marriage came to a divorce too soon for Di Resta.

21

Well, so far McLaren only have one and half complete drivers among other Big Teams like Ferrari Red Bull Lotus or Merc.

22

McLaren will not win any championship under Whitmarsh. This season is a wrap up already. Something is missing in that team, if its not the car, it the pitcrew, or the strategy.

Now they have a below average car and below average drivers. Its going to be a couple of seasons before anything happens.

23

Too early to judge Perez, the season is long.

McLaren have bigger fish to fry at the moment (like their 2014 car…).

24

1.Lewis was in qualy most of the time 3 tenths faster as button. Do the math where Lewis would have placed that Mclaren.
2.I would choose Hulkenbergs resume all day over Perez.
3. Season is to short to really tell. Let’s wait 5 more races to flush Buttons dream car and Perez the boy wonder in the toilet….. Just saying.

26

So.. it looks like maybe Perez wasn’t outperforming his car last year. Maybe the car was flattering him instead. Looking at his recent performances it’s possible that the Sauber was the fastest car for half of last year.

27

The 2012 Sauber deserved to win some GPs – no doubt about that and its not even in hindsight. They had 2 below average (not even just average) drivers.

28

They should have just sat tight and left the seat open for a while instead of rushing for Perez, a guy Ferrari didn’t want. The McLaren name carries enough cache (at least it did last season, not so much now!) that drivers would wait for that seat to fill before going elsewhere. McLaren could have had their pick TBH. They also have a stable of young drivers, none of whom seemed to get a look in. Hell, they could even have brought Kovi or PdlR back for a few races or whole season as an interim measure – at least they are known quantities. And I wonder if Webber would have been tempted to get away from RBR????

29

It’s not Perez fault, it’s McLaren, who makes mistake after mistake. It started with Whitmarsh as TP. Losing Hamilton was a big mistake, losing Lowe the next

Now they are ruining Perez, wanting the world to believe he would be able to replace Hamilton easily. This inevitably must lead to frustration of the driver , the team and the fans.

Whitmarshs comments do not help at all, as they put pressure on Perez, who is already under heavy pressure.It looks like Perez has lost his confidence, already.

30

Perez is a good sign. I felt he was a future champion as much as Hulkenberg, Maldanado and Grosjean. Hulkenberg has impressed me as much as Perez and when at Force India did as much as Perez at Sauber. I feel that Hulkenberg would have faired in the same way as Perez. It’s still early days and he is up against a greatly improved Button who has worked with the team for 4 years now. Give him time. Kovalainen took a while to impress at Renault. As I say Hulkenberg impressed me as much as Di Resta which wasn’t enough to warrant the McLaren drive.

31

AGREE!!!

32

This same thing people were saying was said about Vettel. Look at where he is today.

33

McLaren must know something about Perez the rest of us don’t. Maybe we shouldn’t be judging someone after 3 races but I can’t see it getting any easier this season.

34

They know how much money he brought in… LOL

35

Was going to say the same!

36

Do they?

Or was his signing meant to be a two fingered salute to Ferrari?

When someone like Whitmarsh suggests he gets more aggressive, I’d suggest they don’t like what they’re seeing

37

The problem is Ferrari knew more about him than McLaren and still never signed him when Massa was struggling like crazy.

38

People who say the team would be much further up the grid with Hamilton in the car really demonstrate how very little they know about F1. I will be the first to say that Lewis is a one lap specialist, as Vettel is, but in the race Jenson was very close. If Lewis was in the car, taking the time difference of a couple of tenths over Jenson, they would still only be around 8,9,10th on race pace. Please keep comments as close to reality as possible. As far as Checo is concerned, Whitmarsh needs to give the guy a car that worthy of a decent lap time and maybe, just maybe we might see a more confident driver. I do agree however that the prospect of sponsorship was the persuading factor in his signing.

39

I agree with everything that is being said and perhaps a little lacking in my stats. Lewis is probably the quickest guy out there so its no wonder everyone uses him as a yardstick to measure against. But Jenson is no slouch either and can not be expected to any better than his best. That best might not be good enough in the eyes of us armchair experts, but the car is as much a dog as has been produced by McLaren in many years. People go on about the good old days when uncle Ron was in charge, but be honest, what have they achieved in the last 10 years, 1 x WDC and nothing else. McLaren have not been producing championship winning cars for many years so this is nothing new. Jenson is not to blame and I put the problem directly at Paddy Lowe’a feet. He designed this car and its a bad one. So what if Jenson is not as good as Lewis, that makes no difference to the team at the moment, and I stand by my comment, Lewis would still only get this car 7 or 8th in Q3 at the moment.

40

He needs to give the guy a car worthy of a decent lap time? I dont think anybody is asking him to win the WDC, but hes not even close to his teammate, and thats all that is being asked of him. Button is driving the same car and hes placing higher than Checo.

41

“Up the grid” refers to the starting grid. If one figures that Hamilton could qualify on average 3-tenth’s higher than Button, then it’s a perfectly valid point.

42

Do you remember when Jenson became utterly lost with the car’s setup at several times during 2012, especially between the Spanish and British GPs? During that same period, Hamilton was consistently a front-runner, won in Canada, qualified on pole at Spain (and should have won had McLaren not accidentally under-fueled the car), and was running third in Valencia until Maldonaldo ran him off the road. In short, without Hamilton to provide a reference to show what the MP4-27 was capable of, it would have been easy to mistakenly conclude that McLaren was simply not competitive compared to the other leading teams at the time. I suspect that there’s an element of this dynamic unfolding at McLaren now, with Jenson left to push the team all by himself because Perez is unable to.

43

Well said.

44

This is accurate.

45

I don’t agree with you, Hamilton is only a 1 lap wonder. Look what he did last year, when Button run into a dead end with his car development route. Without Hamilton delivering the results, anyone would have thought the car is bad & they wouldn’t have come back on track, without the data Hamilton provided.I’m sure, still having Hamilton in the car would massively benefit McLaren ATM.

46

Could not have said it better.

47

Hulkenberg in my view is a much stronger choice who seem to rise even with an average car. Pole for Williams, Leading race in Brazil last year before crashing, leading in China yesterday ahead of Vettel with same strategy and many other instances can be provided.

DiResta to me is a good but average driver.

I hope Hulk gets a drive at one of the top teams next year and would be very interesting to see how he performs (if he gets the drive).

48

Ok, is it just me or was it totally Di Resta’s fault for the contact with Sutil? What did he think would happen, going where he did? Then it seems in his comments he was complaining about it, saying it cost him a higher finish.

49

I would care to point out that Perez has done similarly impressive feats to the things you just listed Hulkenberg doing.

50

+1.

Let’s see where everyone’s at come mid-championship…

51

Perez has never been on pole, nor has he ever led a race.

52

He barely got pole due to being on a wet set up, didn’t get to turn 2 in the lead and was going back like he was in reverse.

53
Tornillo Amarillo

If you don’t let Hamilton go, you wouldn’t have this debate about Perez.

And you let Hamilton go when you place intentionally your love in Button, make stupid pits and fuel errors, reliability issues when your are leading…

It’s just decision procedures that are wrong, even if you win some races that’s not enough for a team like McLaren.

McLaren had in Hamilton-Button the best teammate relationship, letting Hamilton go, the team just got more problems, not less.

54

I have always liked Jens despite his not being able to pull BAR up and his sometimes getting “lost” on setups. but I think he is really on top of his game with his side of the garage so far this year.

Perez, unfortunately, not so much. I expected a bit more from him. about 1/6 of the season is already over and he has floundered! I do not dislike Ferrari nor McLaren – just not a fanboy of either, but I am starting to think Ferrari were right in stating Perez is not ready for the big time.

I expect this to be a short-term marriage at this point, unless…

55

Romain Grosjean is my bet. Together with a good coach and a shrink. He is obviously very fast and just needs to be tamed a little too show his full potential.

56

Does anyone else feel Romain seems to have lost something this season? He just seems to have lost half a yard of speed. Maybe he is just trying to be super cautious, but given how fast Kimi has been I would have expected him to be right up there with him.

57

A shrink?!!

58

He has been tamed, but I tend to think he was showing his potential up until then. Now he just seems…slow 🙁

59

Hulkenburg should have got the drive. Simple as.

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