McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has explained how the Woking-based outfit has made some big mistakes so far in 2013, regarding the aggressiveness of the new car in comparison to last season. Although this has seen the team improve over last season, the gap between themselves and their direct competitors has lengthened.
After ending the 2012 season with a strong victory in the inclement weather conditions of the Brazilian Grand Prix around Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit, McLaren were expected to return in the new season strong once again with a new driver line-up after Lewis Hamilton’s departure to Mercedes. During the opening two race weekends the Woking-based outfit could only manage four World Championship points at the hands of Jenson Button, which saw them a staggering 33 points adrift from Mercedes and 62 points away from Red Bull.
Although Sergio Perez managed to improve as the season progressed, allowing both McLaren drivers to finish consistently within the points, the outfit failed to make a return to the podium as they struggled to even qualify within the top ten on a regular basis. With the paddock now gearing up for the final European round of the season at Monza, McLaren have still yet to find their way onto the podium or even the front-row of the grid with Jenson Button’s 6th place for the Belgian Grand Prix becoming the team’s personal best qualifying result of the season.
Such uncompetitiveness for McLaren is unheard of throughout the Formula 1 paddock, with the team usually regarded as a clinically precise outfit that specializes in remaining a competitively strong team each season. The last time the team failed to win a race was 2006, and the last time they failed to step onto the podium was away back in 1980 when John Watson and Alain Prost endured a torrid season marred by retirements and poor qualifying results in the Ford-powered M29B/C and M30.
Martin Whitmarsh understands that McLaren have made big mistakes so far this season, something which the 55-year-old takes full responsibility for. With in-season testing no longer permitted in Formula 1, ironing out the creases of the MP4-28 is extremely difficult. The team therefore utilizes the Friday practice sessions of each Grand Prix weekend to their full advantage, with the team yet to pull the plug on the current season with ambitions of remaining ahead of Force India and eventually stepping onto the podium.
“This year we have made some big mistakes – that is very obvious, and difficult to rectify,” explained Martin Whitmarsh in an exclusive interview with Formula1.com. “I don’t like it, but there is no point in hiding from it. It is much more enjoyable to go motor racing with the prospect of winning. We don’t enjoy going racing without that prospect, so it’s now painful and difficult, but that’s life. It’s an unusual situation because in the last ten years we’ve always been there fighting for wins and even Championships right to the end of the season. And you can’t back off this year. We can’t be content where we are experimenting – that’s tough on the team – bur effectively during Friday the car is a test bed and is running in lots of different configurations and we are collecting the data.”
“We went aggressive with the heights of the nose, the configuration of the front suspension, the configuration of the rear suspension, the bodywork and exhaust layout,” continued the McLaren team principal. “In a word, we did too many things which were deviating from a car which was the fastest car nine or ten months ago…”
With the prospect of Honda returning to the outfit in 2015, McLaren will undoubtedly be eager to improve in a bid to rekindle their relationship with the Japanese marque in competitive style. Whitmarsh is adamant the outfit will bounce back from their current lack of competitiveness stuck towards the midfield section of the sport’s incredibly tight grid. Jenson Button and Sergio Perez will unquestionably be instrumental in their return to form, however recent rumours have linked Kimi Raikkonen to what would be a surprise return to the team. Although Whitmarsh has confirmed that talks with the Finn were carried out last season, there has currently been no discussions between his team and the 2007 World Champion.
“Kimi has always been great and I am a big fan of him,” said Martin Whitmarsh. “There is a lot of speculation out there at the moment, so let’s see what happens. I’m completely open – last year we had talks with him, but for various reasons it didn’t happen. This year we’ve had no talks – yet. Obviously Kimi is determined to go somewhere else and I sense that he will not succeed in that goal, so let’s see how he gets on there.”
Despite the rumours linking Kimi Raikkonen to many other teams next season, it seems Martin Whitmarsh is intent on retaining his current line-up for 2014. Although neither Jenson Button or Sergio Perez has finished on the podium so far this season, it’s unquestionable that should McLaren provide their drivers with a competitive machine in the future, they will certainly excel.
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