Silverstone inquest begins at McLaren
The alarm bells are ringing at McLaren after a wretched British GP in which neither Lewis Hamilton nor Jenson Button challenged the leaders.
Last Updated: 09/07/12 8:33am
The alarm bells are surely ringing loudly at McLaren after the team suffered a wretched British GP with Lewis Hamilton's discontent made plain over his car-to-pits radio and Jenson Button only barely squeaking into the points.
Thoroughly out-paced by Red Bull in Valencia, the team failed to offer any sort of challenge to the leaders at Silverstone in either qualifying or race-trim with Hamilton unable to improve on his eighth place grid position in the race. Put bluntly, the McLaren, having started the season at the front of the grid, appears to have been reduced to the fifth-fastest car in the field behind Ferrari, Red Bull, Lotus and Mercedes.
"We tried as hard as we could, but we just didn't have the pace and I don't know why," reflected Hamilton. "I was in the lead at one point and I don't understand how I could be there and then go all the way back to where I started. I pushed all the way, I did all I could, but..."
But where to start? The McLaren looked relatively slow from start to finish, with Hamilton's early lead of the race only a deceptive consequence of him starting off - probably mistakenly, though a fundamental lack of performance was the largest factor in their demise - on the long-running hard tyres. Scarcely five laps had elapsed before the 2008 World Champion reported a lack of pace over his radio and his frustration was twice compounded during his final stint as both the Lotus of Romain Grosjean and Michael Schumacher's Mercedes swept past.
"From what I can understand, our strategy was ok. We were very slow in the slow-speed corner but particularly in the high speed. A really tough race. Really tough," he said.
And, but for Pastor Maldonado's latest race-wrecking crash, it could have been worse. Far worse.
"We're just not there on pace," conceded Button before delivering the starkest of conclusions: "It's not just the Red Bull which is stronger than us, it's the Ferraris, the Lotuses and even the Williams and the Sauber. It's tough.
"The car is just not quick enough at the moment and we need to improve it."
McLaren's Sporting Director Sam Michael agreed that the team's current form was not up to standard - although suggested their problems in the wet in qualifying had already severely compromised their chances ahead of the race in any case.
"It's not the performance we really want to have," he told Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle. "We struggled in qualifying yesterday and didn't really have good starting positions. During the race itself, one thing we were trying to do was keep off the option tyre because we suffered with a lot of graining on it. But I think generally as the car pace, it would be respectable if we had a better starting position.
"The problem is when you drop back into the field you suffer behind other cars and the cars are so close now if you suffer any downforce loss in the wake [of them] it extrapolates during the grand prix. So you can see areas where we caught up quickly to the cars in front and then couldn't get through quickly.
"It's not where we want to do and we'll go away and do a lot of homework on it and make sure it's faster for the next time."
Having won with Hamilton just two races prior to Silversone in Canada, Michael conceded the team had simply slipped behind in what is proving a relentless development race this season.
"If you look at only two races ago we were very competitive," he said. "It's basically a performance game and development race and clearly some other teams are bringing them quicker than us at the moment and we've just got to keep pushing on it.
"It's quite normal. The cars are quite sensitive on the tyres - you can go from one grand prix to another and be very competitive at one place and not in another circuit."
Michael conceded McLaren had probably been unwise to pit Hamilton so swiftly again after his frst stop to cover Romain Grosjean but admitted: "If we didn't [make the right call], maybe it cost us a place, but either way we should really be fighting at the front against Red Bull and Ferrari, we shouldn't have been having to make covering positions. We should be racing strongly in the middle.
"Our focus is to be up there straight away in Germany and our factory will be working flat out to do that."
Quite how and why McLaren though, having started the season with both of their cars at the front of the grid, is an ongoing mystery.
"It's almost as if there is a secret that everyone else has worked out but nobody has told McLaren," reflected an evidently-bemused Damon Hill on Sky Sports F1. "We're a very sporting nation, we'll give these guys a lot of support, but at the end of the day, these guys need to start winning races."