Lack of technical direction has cast them adrift
The McLaren MP4-29 is a better car than it looked in the rst half of the year. Its low nose allows decent front suspension compliance; it’s had few mechanical issues; and it’s not slow on the straights, although it’s no Williams-beater.
Part of the problem, they say, is that they can’t get the 29 to work on Pirelli supersofts. This highlights a bigger issue: the team is very departmentalised. It’s solution-friendly in the best possible technical senses of the words, but the upshot, for a team so big, is that they have begun to chase their tails. In trying to make the car work on supersofts, for example, they’re sprinting down a development trail that leads nowhere – or which shouldn’t exist in the rst place. Thus real development suffers.
Sam Michael looks good in his sporting director role, but in terms of the direction of development the ship is a big one to re-navigate. McLaren, like Ferrari, ejected their team principal earlier in the year but in both cases you wonder if they – the boards – really knew what they were doing. McLaren need a Paddy Lowe, an Adrian Newey, or even a Tim Goss in charge of the car. Whether there’s a Whitmarsh or a Dennis at the top is irrelevant. F1 is about a good technical person running the complete car – it’s not about leaders. Leaders should do nothing more than select those good people and give them the platform on which to do their thing.
For now, McLaren exist in a purgatory of their own making, neither progressing nor regressing.