Last year was the year I broke ranks and joined the McLaren fanboy society…well, sort of. Within reason of course…after all, I am a Ferrari fan. Last year, in a Grace-stumping move, I chose McLaren as my Team of the Year. Perhaps not as prestigious an award as the constructors trophy, it’s a real doozy nonetheless and teams know it. They cherish it.
Yep, it was my homage to a team that is nothing short of fabulous…apart from Ferrari of course. They took a car that handled like a pig out of the box in the Great Southern Land and ended the 2009 season winning races. AMAZING! I reckon they could take HRT’s contumacious car and get on the podium by Spa this year. That’s what I thought until recently.
McLaren delivered their serious upgrade package at the British GP this year and quickly removed it so they could take it back home and beat Gary Paffett about the head and neck all night long to determine what was wrong with it. Come to find out, we have no idea what’s wrong with it because McLaren aren’t telling us. That makes sense, however, as I wouldn’t broadcast my reasons for being slower than I wanted to be either.
After thinking, drinking loads of coffee, chewing some gum, drawing, fabricating, clicking mice, rubbing eyes, relieving themselves, occasionally eating, making some phone calls, consulting the Ferrari technical manual and asking Ron Dennis if he would drop off the bagel he’d promised them; they arrived at a solution. They brought that solution to Hockenheim and it sort of worked…apart from Red Bull remaining quicker and now Ferrari as well. Not to fear, it was the track that artificially propped up the cheating Scuderia’s performance…at least that’s what they’re telling themselves.
Now we have a mere five days to take that sort-of working upgrade and tweak it with the data harvested in Germany and transport it to Hungary to anticipate a better showing. Can it be done? Well I don’t know but I should think McLaren could pull it off if anyone could. At least the McLaren of 2009 could. So who replace McLaren with instant Folgers Crystals instant coffee?
The ban on in-season testing has hampered all the teams and while it existed in 2009, I am wondering if it was brilliance meshed with luck and talent (Lewis Hamilton) that saw them finish the year strong. Which element has changed in that equation for 2010? They still have talent in Hamilton, heaven knows the bloke is awesome, and they’ve added another driver who is toting around a world championship trophy so I doubt talent is the issue.
Brilliance? Well, they did lose Pat Fry and that had to hurt. It also seems to have helped Ferrari and perhaps that was a bigger blow than we give it credit for. Then again, maybe Fry was little more than the water boy at McLaren and they actually were done a favor by his departure…I’ll bet on the former argument myself. Team boss Martin Whitmarsh is proving to be as cunning, tactical and astute as former team boss and CEO Ron Dennis ever was and that’s a good sign for McLaren fans.
That leaves luck or Folgers Crystals to be honest. Is it down to an unlucky roll of the dice? Are the other teams developing quicker or more effectively? It’s hard to say but McLAren are currently the third fastest car on the grid according the a young man who should know. Hamilton said:
“I have said since Valencia, since they [Ferrari] had their upgrade, that they are faster than us,” Hamilton said at the Hungaroring. “Even though it didn’t show in that race weekend and it didn’t show in Silverstone, they have been faster than us for a while.
“We have been the third fastest team for some time now, and we still are. We have to work our backsides off to catch them and keep getting our upgrade parts.
“At the moment we are still behind. Of course it is a concern â€“ but we are still leading the championship and we can still get great results and still score good points until we get that next step. Then hopefully we can bag some even better points.”
Yikes, that some serious reality from the man who is on the working end of the car. I suspect it’s a combination of things really but I have a hard time ever counting the team out. They are massively talented, intelligent and professional and while teams have up and down seasons, I think McLaren were pressing very hard to reel Red Bull in. Perhaps the direction chosen was a bridge too far? It’s difficult to say but I still am prepared to give McLaren my Team of the Year award for 2010 such is the veracious nature of this beast from Woking…that is if Ferrari don’t smack their arse!