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Martin Whitmarsh Q&A: McLaren not dwelling on disappointment 23 May 2012

Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 13 May 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 13 May 2012 Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer talks with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, 22 April 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 13 May 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 13 May 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 13 May 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012

McLaren started 2012 full of verve, hopeful they had laid their troubled 2011 to rest and that that they could be the team to beat this year. Five races later and with just one victory chalked up, the British team are feeling frustrated by the challenge of the Pirelli tyres and their handful of pit-stop slipups. However disappointing it’s been, team principal Martin Whitmarsh is seeking solace in the openness of the season and is hoping McLaren’s luck could change at Monaco this weekend. He explains more in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ‘Phone-In’ session…

Q: Lewis Hamilton has taken a consistent approach to this season. How can he marry that up with winning?
Martin Whitmarsh:
He’s been unlucky this year. I think that in many ways the last race was disappointing for the team, but I think Lewis can come away from that event - and I think he does - with a very strong feeling of what he has achieved this year. Through no fault of his own he had a very severe penalty levelled against him. It’s very easy at a circuit like Barcelona, where overtaking is very difficult even with DRS, to be frustrated. To then be asked by the team to run a two-stop strategy because of the difficulty of getting through the field. And to ultimately finish the race with such controlled, measured tyre conservation, including going 31 more laps than any other driver on a tyre. He comes away with a feeling he has a car that’s capable of getting on pole. He has the capability to be on the front row at every race. And he’s driving with greater levels of maturity, control and discipline than perhaps we have seen before. So I think it was a fantastic drive and I don’t think he, nor I, nor anyone in the team, nor anyone outside the team, believes he’s lost his winning way. The drivers’ championship is wide open. He must consider himself to be a very strong candidate to win in Monaco, many more races, and this year’s championship.

Q: You have admitted that operational mistakes have been made and that you’ve been working on ways to improve that. Are they in the past now or are you concerned?
MW:
I’m confident that the issues that we’ve had so far have been dealt with and are in the past. I’m mindful that under the pressure of trying to win in Formula One there are always things that can come and bite you. So we have to be vigilant, careful and cautious. You should never be complacent and say that you have solved everything - or that I am super confident that nothing will happen again this year. I think that would be foolish. But we’ve made a range of changes within the team in terms of process and personnel to deal with some issues. But everyone in this company is mindful of the fact that a small human error could cause some difficulty in the races.

Q: You said last year that you wanted Pirelli to challenge the teams and they’ve done that. Do you think it’s gone too far in the wrong direction and that the tyres are having too much of an influence on the approach?
MW:
A little bit, yes. But I don’t want to be critical of Pirelli. If they’d made a benign and easy-to-use tyre then all of the teams, drivers, engineers would be much more comfortable in what they do really, but the fans and the show would have been detrimentally affected. As a team principal I can see some of the frustrations about how significant tyre performance has become and how challenging that is. But standing back from it, I think we’ve put on an extraordinary start to this season. We’re 25 percent of the way through with every single race having a different constructor and a different driver winning. It’s extraordinary. It will be very tough on us if it carries on over the next 15 races but it’s all there to play for. Giving predictions in Formula One is normally quite difficult but I’ve never known over my 20 years in the sport it to be quite as challenging to know when you go to an event whether you’re going to be competitive or not. So it causes some internal frustrations, but I think it’s great for the sport overall.

Q: It’s been an extraordinary start to the season, but have you been frustrated?
MW:
I’m not slightly frustrated - I’m very frustrated. We’ve got a reasonable car and two great drivers, so looking back on it we should have had more success than we’ve had. We’ve been competitive or thereabouts at most races. I think we were very uncompetitive in the race in Bahrain, but I think that’s one of the challenges. Rather than focus on the frustration you’ve got to look forward to the opportunity. Either of our drivers could win the drivers’ championship and our team could definitely win the constructors’ title. We are only 25 percent of the way in and there are certainly other team principals who are thinking similarly. We are in a strong position to do so.

Q: Are the drivers frustrated?
MW:
We all have moments of frustration and I think we have this year. But I think going to Monaco we are not going to dwell on the frustrations of what has been. We are going to look ahead at the opportunity. McLaren have won at Monaco 15 times. We know how to win there. Both of our drivers are good around the circuit. We stand a pretty good chance of having a victory there. But you’re often millimetres away from disaster out on the track and you can be milliseconds away from disaster in the garage. So anything can happen, but we go there with a reasonable level of confidence that we can do a good job and could potentially be leading both championships next week.

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