Hamilton: The tipping point for Whitmarsh

It appears Martin Whitmarsh days may be numbered as Team Principle of McLaren Racing.

First a brief background of Martin and McLaren: He studied at Portsmouth Polytechnic attaining a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He joined British Aerospace and in his 9 years there, he had been promoted to Head of Manufacturing for the Hawk and Harrier airframes having a specialism in advanced composite materials.

He joined McLaren in 1989 as Head of Operations. On March 1st 2009, he assumed the role Head of McLaren Racing, when Ron Dennis stepped down to concentrate on developing McLaren automotive, the road car division.

Each of the 3 previous years under Whitmarsh, McLaren have trailed home Red Bull in the constructor’s championship. And whilst having built a reputation for being the best team during the season to advance their F1 car development, have also failed to deliver a World Driver’s Title in this period.

Whitmarsh clearly set his stall out to retain Lewis as a driver for the team at all costs to himself, but it seems obvious that he on Dennis were not on the same page (link to prev article). The whole twittergate and telemetry saga was quite ridiculous. I’m all for freedom in the social media of F1 personnel and with regards to the previous “WTF?” Lewis tweet – who cares?

The telemetry tweet was a completely different matter, a most serious breach of conduct imaginable. Lewis was criticising his own teams’ judgement call in public as well as embarrassing he whole team by publishing confidential internal documents. Ask any one of the senior team members how much they enjoyed the flood of fun poking taking texts they received from t other teams following Lewis’ action.

Yet Whitmarsh took no action. All we had was a slightly embarrassed, “we asked him to take that one down” comment and nothing else. No reprimand, no fine and I don’t think we even heard Lewis apologise in public for the very public embarrassment he caused.

It is interesting that at the Monza weekend immediately following this debacle we had muted celebrations from Lewis, indifference from Ron during the presentation ceremony and then quite deliberately Dennis made very clear to the media that it was Whitmarsh responsibility to get the negotiations with Lewis over the line.

I haven’t done the sums on this, but after almost a complete absence from attending race weekends following Whitmarsh promotion, big Ron has been noticeably present more often recently. Much of the work required to set up the automotive division is complete and in good hands and as Whitmarsh himself said in Singapore, “Ron is fundamentally a racer”. Mmm.

There was another negative public expression from Lewis in Canada that did not go down well in the team as it was seen by some as an example of a pervasive cultural attitude. In response to being asked what he thought about Ron saying he would have to take a pay cut to stay with the team, Hamilton said “it has nothing to do with me what he {Dennis] says, Martin is my boss”.

To be fair to Whitmarsh, if has been able to foster that kind of loyalty from his troops, then he should be complemented on his team building skills, but if this now clashes with Dennis desire to have more influence on matters F1, it is clearly also problematic.

Whitmarsh was the only real option open to Dennis when he needed to step away from the F1 team, and whilst he has proven likeable to the viewers and full of bonne homie towards Horner, Brawn and Domenicali, there are those who think his affable style is a bit too chummy and lacks the cutting edge McLaren need to win a championship. At 54 years of age, Martin Whitmarsh is not going to change.

The team recruited this year the much admired Sam Michael who is 13 years Martin’s junior, and as retiring technical director he is credited with leaving Williams with what has proven to be their most competitive car for a long time. He has transformed McLaren’s woeful pit stop problems to the extent they are the only team to have recorded a sub 2.5sec stop ever. Sam Michael has joined McLaren expecting a bigger job in the near future.

It would not beyond the bound the bounds of possibility to see Dennis and Sam Michael assuming the leadership of the F1 team and Whitmarsh, who is much respected within the Group moving ‘upstairs’.

But of course 2012 is not yet done, but with 6 races to go it looks a tough ask for Hamilton to overhaul Alonso and Vettel. The Constructors title is a different matter. The current points standings are Red Bull leading with 297, McLaren 261, Ferrari 245 and Lotus 231.

One would imagine on present form Lewis and Jenson are the best placed of the driver pairings to score the most points between now and the season’s end, and they are in the car that has been the one to beat for a couple of months now.

So, just as Di Mateo did by guiding Chelsea to win the coveted Champions League and was then rewarded by Abramovich with another year in charge, it could be that Whitmarsh delivers McLaren’s first constructor title for 12 years and gains a stay of execution.

It appears that Lewis Hamilton has a chance to repay the loyalty his boss has shown – at times beyond the call of duty. The tipping point for Whitmarsh is in his ‘favoured son’s’ hands – which way will it fall?

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22 responses to “Hamilton: The tipping point for Whitmarsh

  1. Innuendo, guess work, false information and clearly not thought out.

    The road car division is in trouble, financially not making the numbers predicted. They have a roll out of 3 new models coming up and Ron Dennis is also in charge of making sure the new production facilities are built and ready for th eup[scale they predicted they needed to produce 4000 cars a year, their ambitious target for next year.

    Yet you think RD wants to be on the pit wall?

    How can you in one post, say Hamilton was forced out, and in another Whitmarch’s position is in question as he left Hamilton go. It’s getting quite silly now.

    • It might be silly but it makes for fun reading! Always so quick to criticize. It’s not like you’re paying for a subscription or anything…

      • I seriously think Martin Whitmarsh may move on, if not this year maybe next – look at he impact Sam Michael has made on the shambolic pit stops. He was technical director for Williams and will want a bigger job soon at McLaren

    • Have you never heard of a poisoned chalice. As I said in the article, many feel Whitmarsh has been too pally with Hamilton and the team lacks cutting edge. Look at the difference in the pit stops since Sam Michael took charge, world record times

      So why not give Whitmarsh a nigh on impossible task (after low balling Hamitlon’s expectations) in retaining Hamitlon and then use the fact that he failed to move him on if there’s no title in 2012?

      Further, what the hell does Dennis know about making road cars?

      • Some could say it was Sam Michael who oversaw the pit stops disasters earlier this season, and it’s Whitmarsh who was instrumental in turning them around; remember, Sam Michaels remit in the team, before you consider this Whitmarsh’s fault. There were discussions by Seward et al earlier this year about how Safe Michaels job was.

        Ron Dennis knew nothing about building Road cars, but it didn’t stop him building what is renowned as the best supercar ever, the F1. He then had the SLR and its various models, and now the MP4/12C and onwards P1 and the new small segment sports cars to come. He is in charge over a corporation now, one that is in many industries, and he over seas them all. His job now, is to ensure the company survives, as they are not selling the numbers they projected. You’d have thought by now, you had a little inkling of where I worked. Whitmarsh is going no where, and nor is Sam Michael who will, eventually, take Whitmarsh’s place, but at a time and place when Whitmarsh is moved up inside the company.

        You keep going on about low balling Hamilton, but the facts state the opposite. It’s become very clear, they were willing to do anythng to keep him, including making him the highest paid driver on the grid, but he chose not to, choosing, instead, the vision of Lauda and Brawn. All of that is documented and fact. Mclaren wanted, desperately, to keep Hamilton, and the demeanour on Dennis can likely be construed as knowing he’s lost him.

        Whitmarsh is actualy the golden one in Mclaren, he’s a bit of a dandy, and I am no fan, but he’s very highly regarded inside Mclaren.

        • Still not sure what you think the story really is..”Petulant Hamilton leaves team that loved him to the end?”

          I think McLaren’s pit stop problems pre-date Michael. Was it Silverstone and Button last year, a loose wheel following pit stops? Since being drilled by Sam, McLaren have I think 6 consecutive races with the fastest stop now.

          Ron Dennis didn’t build the McLaren F1, Gordon Murray did and ‘mass’ car production is not on Ron Dennis CV. Developing the most successful F1 race team per number of races entered is

          You may work in the road car division, but I have friends in the race team and they’ve been telling me for over a year, Lewis behvious has been causing problems for the team.

      • I am inclined to agree with you the judge13; on the basis that I too think that MW’s days are numbered at McLaren, if Button and Perez don’t pull it off immediately. My take on twittergate was that something very wrong went behind the scenes that got LH boiling and MW wanted to make it go away. With LH telling the media he has not spoken to RD, and the way Ron was acting on the day the news of the Mercedes signing (at a McLaren road launch) something is quite odd. My feeling is MW is in the middle of a war between RD and LH at the moment. It may have started off between MW and Lewis (more about the lack of support as No 1 driver) but when LH turned to RD, Ron with his ambitions taking centre stage, may have thought LH could be ‘handled’ and impatiently left it to MW. The most telling thing is LH calling MW not RD to announce his decision and the fact it was a very intense conversation (enough to get MW in a suit with a very uncomfortable tone). MW is now playing safe because he knows he is on a tightrope. He was meant to keep LH driving with McLaren at all costs 4 weeks ago (except for terms like the original trophies and less promotional work) but mw wanted to appease JB too by giving equal status in every way to both. LH is not one to be silenced and will tell all when he leaves. If Mercedes are not seeing eye to eye with McLaren, they may not reign LH in and he will wear his heart on his sleeve and sign better than a canary.

  2. Sorry to labour a point, but just quickly looking online saw me find many articles from James Allen, Seward and others about Sam Michael coming under fire for poor pitstops, and that Whitmarsh wasn’t blaming Michael yet, but that MIchael had to sort out the issues surrounding pit stops.

    Michael was taken on as Technical Director responsible for developing and managing the race operations, of which pit stops is a key responsibility.

    You simply can’t blame him for everything, especially things not under his remit. The fact he stood by Michael, when heaps were callng for his head, actually strengthens his hand, given where the pit stops are now.

    • I thought SM’s title was Sporting Director operations

      I appreciate that he was under fire early in the season, but I did actually say MW is a loyal and affable guy. Again, without checking the net how many practice stops were reported – 2000? That takes time – and McLaren had previous from 2011.

      Good debate though 🙂

      • Sam was under fire from within and out. However, he did pull it around, and with whitmarshs support. He’s responsible for race day operations in reality.

        Dennis really doesn’t do much, if any, F1 stuff anymore.

        I’d make a friendly wager that whitmarsh goes upstairs if anywhere, and not for a while. Michael is, however being groomed for the role.

        Whitmarsh is universally liked throughout mclaren and F1. He’s not going anywhere.

        But yes, good debate.

    • What gets me is that Sam Michael was given credit for leaving Williams with a good car.
      During his time as Williams Tech Director, it got worse and worse. Coughlan joining the squad under Adam Parr has transformed that team.

      • I agree completely with this, and, imo, the period when Mclaren suffered the most issues with Pit stops, was when he joined. It was only after an internal enquiry into the problems Mclaren were having at Pit stops that they resolved it, as a team, not just SM.

  3. Gordon Murray ‘Designed’ the F1, Dennis created the facility to build it. Again, check your facts.

    I don’t work in the road car division, I just know about it.

    Mass car production is on Ron Dennis’s CV, for thats what he does. He’s done it since the F1, SLR and now the MP4/12C, P1 and others.

    You say since being drilled by Sam, but they have been being drilled by Sam since January 1st.

    You really, really should check your facts.

    • I’d be careful how you term “mass” car production.
      100 odd F1’s and Mercedes sanctioned SLR’s isn’t mass production.

      The current cars are the first to use a Mclaren engine which was designed for the car.

      • The engine they use now, is not even a MClaren engine,not even designed or built by Mclaren. The SLR was not a Mercedes sanctioned car, it was a combined venture.

        I use the term mass production, as they produce cars, not one offs, and are classified as a car producer. RD is aiming for 4000 cars a year, and by anyones defintion, that’s mass car production.

        Now, Pininfarina, are not a mass car producer. So I guess it’s how you define car producer, and the point in question was what does ROn Dennis know about car production. I’d say he knows quite a lot.

  4. Sorry about this late comment, but it is interesting to note what MW was quoted saying some time ago:


    “I am confident that I will stay in my job,” Whitmarsh said, grim-faced. “I answer to the board, not just Ron [Dennis, chairman of McLaren Group], and they seem happy with the job I’m doing – for now, anyway.”

    • Thank you – Better late than never. Hope you enjoy the site

      The articles I did about Hamilton being pushed and Whitmarsh’s neck on the line got me some adverse commment.

      I hadn’t seen thiese articles before, but you confirm certain body language and defensive attitudes I had observed when with McLaren at a race before the summer break.

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