After the Chinese and Bahrain double header, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton might be forgiven for launching into a few Malcolm Tucker of The Thick of It style, expletive laden, tirades.
This post is not intended as further criticism of the Team’s unfortunate right rear gun-man. Almost every TV show I’ve seen over the past couple of decades, with the possible exception of the Antiques Road Show and Songs of Praise, has at some stage run a Formula 1 pit stop demonstration. Despite this, I still have not the slightest inkling of what it must be like to be a member of an F1 pit crew in the heat of a Grand Prix. No, the McLaren Team’s problems run much, much deeper than a few fumbled tyre changes.
Whilst other teams might wax and wane, McLaren, along with Ferrari, is accepted as one of the Formula One royalty. Yet, the bare facts are that the McLaren Team hasn’t won a constructers championship since 1998 and has secured just one driver’s title since 2000, and then only by the skin of a Toyota’s Bridgestones. A significant chunk of this period was, of course, the Schumacher and Ferrari era of dominance. However, lesser resourced teams such as Renault, Brawn and Red Bull have all secured multiple titles in recent years.
Where is the flaw in the Woking Team’s world? The fault can hardly rest with the drivers. Of the 6 current or former World Champions on the present F1 grid, 4 have driven for McLaren during the past decade. The Team can’t be criticised for its engineering ability or willingness to innovate – just look at the F-duct and the turn-around in their 2009 season. McLaren doesn’t lack first class facilities – the McLaren Technology Centre and circuit Brand Centre are testaments to Ron Dennis’ unbending commitment to efficiency, presentation and silver paint
McLaren is like one of those futuristic utopias in a 1970s science fiction film. On the surface, all is gleaming perfection, but underneath there is a rotting flaw waiting to undermine the whole edifice. McLaren is the Logan’s Run of Formula 1.
What all the teams that have succeeded over the past decade have had – whether Ferrari, Renault, Brawn or Red Bull – is a clear philosophy running through from the design to the race tactics. That may also be the case with McLaren, but it isn’t so obvious to see.
For the sake of a good 2012 season, I hope that McLaren can sort out the problems they have experienced so far this year, post-Melbourne. If not, they are likely to face some significant criticism. An attractive car and some funny Vodaphone adverts will only carry good will so far.
FORMULA ONE MUM