Whitmarsh: revitalised McLaren well placed for 2010 05 Aug 2009
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has hailed his teams recent renaissance, admitting that they headed down something of a developmental dead-end earlier in the season. McLaren scored just 14 points in the first nine races, before returning to the top step of the podium in Hungary.
To stand there as team principal was a very, very proud moment for me personally because Im proud to be a member of this team, proud of what everyone has done in this team and thats been a fantastic effort to recover, said Whitmarsh. In any season its difficult to recover. To recover in a season with no track testing is an amazing effort by everyone.
By their own admission, McLaren were shocked to find themselves about 2.5s off the pace at the start of the year. Convinced the MP4-24s design was fundamentally sound, the team put huge efforts into resolving its lack of downforce, but were initially unable to achieve the rate of development needed to catch their rivals.
We were for a variety of reasons some way behind in terms of the aerodynamic performance, said Whitmarsh. And whilst we had made progress - and we made very good progress in a very short period of time - I sensed this was coming to a plateau of performance. And that required us to have a dramatic rethink.
According to Whitmarsh, the turning point coincided with the teams home race at Silverstone, which saw reigning champion Lewis Hamilton trail home a lowly 16th, a lap down on the leaders, after qualifying only 18th in front of his British fans.
I think I said at the time, sometimes youve got to step backwards to go forward, he continued. We made some fundamental changes to weight distribution and we started to accept that we needed a completely different aerodynamic philosophy. Perhaps inadvertently, for a whole variety of reasons, wed got ourselves into a cul de sac of development and we needed to reverse out of that.
Looking back, Whitmarsh hinted that McLarens intense battle with Ferrari for the 2008 championship had almost certainly hindered their 2009 preparations, with the major regulation changes compounding the problem. He also admitted that their approach to the new rules may have been too conservative, after seeing Brawn and their double diffuser dominate the opening races.
Its clear now - I guess it should have been clearer last year - that other teams were putting a huge amount of resource (into 2009), having effectively given up under the other technical regulations. And perhaps also were being slightly more adventurous in their interpretation of the rules than perhaps we could have afforded to be.
That gave them a head start. We went into this year nine months behind a lot of our competitors in terms of development and that was why its been a real battle to get back on terms.
Despite their unexpectedly poor start to 2009, Whitmarsh insists he never doubted McLarens ability to recover. And with more developments on the way for the next round in Valencia, he believes the team are now well placed for the rest of this season - as well as for next year, when revisions to the regulations will be relatively minimal.
The aerodynamic rule changes for next year are negligible. We obviously have the prohibition of refuelling, that's the biggest change, but that doesnt affect the overall aerodynamic package. I think weve got every reason to be confident, but at the same time were not going to be complacent - we know how competitive Formula One is.
A lot of the teams have already stopped the development this year, theyre committed to next year, and weve got to make sure we do a better job than them and that we are competitive. Thats certainly the goal of this team and everyone in it - to be out there, competitive, and winning races and the world championship next year.