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Whitmarsh Q&A: Significant McLaren upgrades for Germany 18 Jul 2012

Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 10 June 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 8 July 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 8 July 2012 (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer and Jonathan Neale (GBR) McLaren Managing Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 8 July 2012 Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 8 June 2012 McLaren MP4-27 rear floor and smoking brake duct.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 8 June 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 8 June 2012

With rumours about the pace of their car, driver contract discussions and title sponsor negotiations dominating media build-up to this weekend’s German race, distractions abound for McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh. But one issue above all is engrossing Whitmarsh ahead of Hockenheim and that’s how to return the MP4-27 to winning ways. In a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ‘Phone-In’ the team principal discusses upgrades, tyres and prioritising…

Q: The last two races were pretty miserable for McLaren. How representative of the car’s pace were they? And what has dominated the team’s to do list over the last week?
Martin Whitmarsh:
Well as you know Formula One changes very quickly. Your fortunes can change from being very strong in Canada, which we clearly were, to a disappointing last couple of races. I think Silverstone was an unusual weekend. Our focus is always to keep developing the car. We will have quite a lot of quite noticeable updates on the car in Germany. I think for everyone, not just McLaren, trying to understand how to work the tyres correctly is quite a substantial challenge. So eliminating mistakes, improving the performance of our car and understanding the tyres and seeing if we can exploit them better are all on the top of our to-do list.

Q: Driver Lewis Hamilton has said he wants to sit down and talk over the summer break about his future. Do you think a few more bad races could put him in a stronger negotiating position?
MW:
No, I think we’re going to the next two races to try and win, as we do with every race. I think Lewis is more intelligent than that and I hope the same applies to the media.

Q: But on the flipside, with Mark Webber staying at Red Bull, Hamilton is running out of options if he does want to move. Will it be easier to agree a new deal?
MW:
I think we will. We’ve known Lewis a long time. We have been concentrating on the season and I think there has been more speculation, more concern and more interest about Lewis’s situation in the media than there has been perhaps within the team or within Lewis’s mind. We are often asked questions about it but I don’t think it occupies as much time in our minds as it does in column inches.

Q: Going back to Silverstone, it was a race that everyone expected you to do well at, given the track characteristics. Have you analysed what went wrong exactly? You mentioned the upgrades, where should we be looking?
MW:
The sidepods from the front to the rear are quite different so you’ll notice those and there are other bits and pieces that the sharper-eyed will see. And clearly there are some parts which are hidden to the naked eye. So they are the main area of modifications and they will be reasonably noticeable. In terms of Silverstone, it was about getting the tyres to work and getting them at the right temperature and not graining. We had graining on the option tyre. On Lewis’s car, for example, the first set of prime tyres were quite strong. Ten laps later we went on to the second set of prime tyres, with the same pressures, the same temperatures, the same preparation and by a lap and a half Lewis felt those tyres were significantly different to the first set he’d run quite successfully. It was difficult to interpret, unless it was higher tyre degradation. We obviously had a poor qualifying session (at Silverstone). I think on the intermediate tyre we were reasonably competitive. Up until that point, on the dry tyre and the wet tyre I don’t think we had enough temperature in the intermediate which was why we struggled in qualifying and the race thereafter was quite difficult.

Q: What’s the situation with the Vodafone title sponsorship moving forward? Have they informed you about their 2014 plans yet and have you spoken to Coca-Cola?
MW:
As you can imagine we don’t talk about commercial discussions. We have enjoyed a good and very successful partnership with Vodafone. We will be with them for some time to come and we talk together about whether that would be lengthened beyond the existing length of the contract. There are also a whole range of other conversations with existing partners and new partners. But I’m sure you can imagine that we are quite unlikely to disclose those discussions.

Q: Does Hamilton’s timeframe of the summer break fit your timeframe of when you’d like to get an agreement in place?
MW:
I don’t think we should put any timeframe on it. I think it’s something that’s got to be determined for both parties preferably before the end of the season. I don’t think there’s any need to do so against any tight timeframe for that resolution.

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