No silver lining for McLaren as the team expect to struggle at the British GP
Former title winners have fallen to sixth in this year's Constructors' Championship; Without a podium finish at Silverstone since 2010
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 02/07/14 1:44pm
McLaren’s struggles are set to continue this weekend at the British GP with the team admitting the weaknesses of their disappointing MP4-29 charger are likely to be highlighted rather than hidden by the high-speed characteristics of the Silverstone circuit.
Although the team finished on the podium in the season-opening Australian GP, their downforce-lite car has since proved to be an underwhelming successor to the woeful MP4-28. March’s race in Melbourne still accounts for the team’s only podium visit since November 2012, an utterly inadequate return for a team accustomed to dominating the sport and a shortfall that resulted in team boss Martin Whitmarsh being jettisoned over the winter.
Yet six months on, and with the Silverstone weekend marking the highpoint of the British motorsport summer, there are still precious few signs that McLaren are finally on the road back to competitiveness. Just sixth in the Constructors’ Championship, the last of McLaren’s 14 British GP victories occurred in 2008 and they last scored a podium finish at Silverstone in 2010. It’s a dismal run that the team seemingly do not believe will be broken this weekend either.
“As in Austria last month, the high-speed sweeps and esses of Silverstone won’t particularly suit the MP4-29 – our car’s package doesn’t excel around fast, long corners,” admitted team boss Eric Boullier.
Although Kevin Magnussen finished in the points in Austria, the two McLarens were almost a second a lap slower than the dominant Mercedes' of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, while Jenson Button endured a particularly miserable weekend, failing to reach the top ten on either the Saturday or the Sunday at the Red Bull Ring.
“The fast corners at Silverstone aren’t necessarily going to suit our package, but we’re bringing improvements to the car all the time, and we’re now seeing some really positive correlation between the tunnel and the track, which is encouraging for our ongoing development programme,” added the 2009 World Champion diplomatically.
Button’s contract with the team expires at the end of the year and the Englishman, who will wear a pink helmet in tribute to his late father John this weekend, has been warned to up his game by McLaren chief Ron Dennis.
Yet not even Dennis would argue that the team is currently in a position to challenge for victories, regardless of the identity of their drivers, or that their package is currently up to scratch despite being powered by the field-leading Mercedes engine.
In 2015, Honda will return to the sport to power McLaren as the two parties rekindle their title-winning partnership of the 1980s and 1990s. Yet despite the obvious temptation to abandon the remainder of the current campaign in order to switch focus on to next year and the complicated task of integrating the Honda power unit into the MP4-30, Boullier is adamant the team will not take any short-cuts.
"We first need to understand why a team like McLaren, which has been successful for so long, is now struggling,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports News last month. “We need to use 2014 and maybe 2015 to cure our problems. We have everything - the talent, the people, the resources, the name, the brand - and we will be back, I know this. But we need to do it properly."
"I don't want to do it next year if it is just for one year and then we fall into a spiral again. Red Bull, if you remember, took four years after they took over Jaguar. It's a tough process and we need to do it properly."
Watch the 2014 British GP live on Sky Sports F1. Extensive coverage of the Silverstone race weekend begins with Friday Practice from 9.45am on July 4.