It’s been said by Whitmarsh, JB and Lewis; Mclaren need to cut it out with the silly errors that have plagued their season. When is the last time you saw anything go wrong for Vettel when it comes to simple things such as calculating the right time to get a quail hotlap in, when to stop for tires, how to judge the track conditions when it’s raining? Vettel has driven superbly all year, no question about that, but it is also the little things which have made this season so perfect for fingerboy. I can remember only one sort of botched pistop in Silverstone, for the rest everything has been smooth sailing.
The Mclarens have been stronger than the points standings suggest this year as in quite a few races they were on the Red Bull race pace – though indeed in quali the RBR has been the superior car- yet they’ve only capitalized on it 4 times. Contrary to what you’d expect when looking at Hamilton’s tumultuous season, Jenson has been hit worse by Maccafail than Hamilton. The most notable fails of the year include Jenson’s pitstop fail at Silverstone which unlike Vettel who just lost a few seconds when his pitstop went wrong as his rear jack broke, put Jenson out of the race.
The first race of the year in Melbourne saw an indecisive Mclaren pitwall that failed to instruct their driver to do the sensible thing and let Massa back past which earned Button a drive through. Or Spa, where Mclaren misjudged the time left for Jenson to do another hotlap which dropped him out in q2 due to the rapidly changing track conditions. Remember Hungary, where Mclaren advised their drivers to pit when it was spitting with rain while they had the race well under control. All they needed to do was watch and react to what others did, not take a gamble themselves, yet they did with Lewis and tried to do so with Jenson who was wise enough to ignore the pitwall and went on to win the race.
Again at Silverstone, they badly misjudged the fuel load for Lewis which forced him to drastically save fuel in the final quarter of the race, coming under pressure from Massa of all people. At Monza, Lewis’ 7th gear was set up so low that he was buzzing the limiter before he was even halfway down the straight. In Singapore, a fuel system malfunction forced Hamilton to sit out the last part of q3.
And then there was Suzuka…Why leave it so late to go out on track for that final run, why send your drivers out so close to each other where one is bound to impede the other’s lap in the final dash for pole? I doubt the track really evolves that much over the 30 seconds you could use to give your drivers a bit of a safety margin – Vettel was about those 30 secs up the road and it didn’t bother him it seems- especially for someone like Hamilton who badly needs a stress free weekend so he can focus on what he does best: drive the wheels off of an f1 car. Why put him under that pressure to get that final lap him in this situation?
Mclaren may build a Newey- beating car next year, but it will be of no use to them if they don’t get their act straight. Some of the most amateuristic mistakes this year have come out of the Mclaren garage, and for a team with such standing that is a disgrace. Mclaren are aware of the problem it seems, as they now have hired Sam Michael to be their sporting director, and while the details of his role remain vague, I’d imagine he’d have an important role in getting all these silly mistakes ironed out.
Sam Michael is a technical guy though so at first sight it might appear as a bit of a strange decision to hire him in a non-technical role, but he has been around on the Williams pitwall for many years and surely knows a thing or two about strategy. It might also help to have just one guy take the ultimate responsibility for these kinds of decisions, as now it seems a bit of an out of control democracy with Whitmarsch just managing the plethora of Mclaren engineers from afar. In any case, if Mclaren really want to take the fight to Red Bull in the final races and into next year, a quick car alone won’t suffice.