Daily #F1 News and Comment: Wednesday 19th June 2013

This page will be updated throughout the day GMT  10:44 11:35 12:54 (lead story updated)

Canada – McLaren drivers’ time of reckoning?

Having been apparently given a job for life by Jonathan Neale (McLaren CEO), Jenson Button may be under internal pressure from the team.

McLaren failed to score points in Canada for the first time in nearly 5 years, and following the race the British driver admitted he could have done better but appeared nonchalant when he commented to SKY, “We should be doing much better. Driving for 1 point is irrelevant, we need to set our sights higher than that”.

In the grand scheme of McLaren’s heritage this may indeed be true. Yet there are those in McLaren who think this attitude is not good enough.

When the team is battling to find every miniscule improvement it is surely disheartening to hear their lead driver make such a suggestion. F1 is about 10ths of seconds and doing whatever it takes to find them.

Having been out qualified and outraced a number of times this season by his rookie team-mate, Jenson is clearly ill at ease with himself, the team and the maybe world. We are getting used to his regular complaints to the team about Perez across car to pit radio and we have seen Jenson playing the superior statesman in television interviews where he talks Sergio down whilst Whitmarsh simultaneously defends the young Mexican.

In the meantime, Button has been throwing his full support behind Martin Whitmarsh who has been under fire in the F1 media. Asked by Sky Sports News during an appearance at Silverstone if everyone at Woking remained united behind Whitmarsh, Button replied: “As far as I know everyone’s united, yes.

Martin’s is a really good leader and he’s a proper human being as well. He’s a guy that you can trust, you can believe in. I feel that everyone at the factory, all the people I speak to when I’m there feel exactly the same. It’s so difficult for a Team Principal when a team that normally wins grands prix suddenly isn’t winning grands prix, but I think he is the best leader to bring us through this difficult time.”

It was Canada 2012 when we first heard public criticism from Ron Dennis of Lewis attitude towards his contract and Hamilton responded, “Martin is my boss, not Ron”.

Ron Dennis voting rights still mean he has the final say on appointments within the group on all racing matters. This was something the Arab investors were happy to concede at the time of their investment as they had no experience in this area.

Were Jenson’s attitude to continue, we may look back on Canada 2013 and realise it was the beginning of the end. On the other hand it may provoke the wake up call Jenson appears to require.

It is probably fair to describe the McLaren chief’s modus operandi as follows. “Cross me once, shame on you – cross me twice, shame on me”.

Which woman driver?

Employers regularly keep information from their employees for a number of reasons. An early declaration of inclusion in an impending event may cause them to relax and coast, knowing they have achieved their goal.

There has been much debate in F1 this year over women drivers, much of which has been provoked by Sir Stirling Moss, who to be fair was approached by Jennie Gow and her BBC production team for comment as part of Wolff’s ‘Women in F1’ piece for the BBC,

That broadcasting piece in itself has been rumoured in the paddock to be a ‘personal agenda setting’ item and its effectiveness will soon be for all to judge.

So, Susie Wolff is Williams test driver and we would expect her to drive in the young drivers test event in 1 month’s time – July 17-19.

TJ13 reported earlier this year Wolff stating, “For me the next logical step is to do the young drivers test, and do it well, and then see what the next step is after that. I think there’s quite a big movement just now, people want to see a woman in Formula One, the momentum is definitely there.

There’s many people who think it’s going to be embarrassing for me to drive on a young driver day because I’m going to be so far off the pace, For me, it’s incredible to hear such comments.

I wouldn’t be doing aero tests if I hadn’t shown some kind of capability. People forget we’ve been racing at a high level for a long time. It’s not like you are just plucked from obscurity and told ‘drive the F1 car’.”

At the time Wolff added, “They (Williams) haven’t said anything but for me it has to happen,” Still no announcement.

Wolff throws down the gauntlet stating, “If it doesn’t happen, then I’m wasting my time. It’s all for nothing. It’s got to happen. I am the development driver, so it cannot be that a young driver test comes and you don’t put your development driver in. But you never know, so let’s see.

People are really pushing now and asking why isn’t there a woman in Formula One. For me the timing is good but motorsport is a lot about talent and a little bit about timing and luck.”

Susie does not possess an F1 super license and cannot complete in a Grand Prix weekend like Bottas did in 2012. To qualify you must fulfil the following requirements under Article 5.1 of the FIA’s International Sporting Code.

A driver must have finished in the top three of the GP2 Series, Japanese Super Formula, the International F3 Trophy or the top four of the IndyCar Championship in the previous two years or be the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 Champion, or the F3 Champion in the Euro, British, Italian, Japan or Spanish series.

However, Wolf does not meet these requirements having previously competed in the DTM, where she scored four points in seven seasons, but could still be granted a licence if she completes “at least 300 km in a current Formula 1 car consistently at racing speeds, over a maximum period of two days.”

Clearly the William’s impending announcement will have a monumental impact on whether Susie remains on the fringes or quickly becomes a distant memory of another woman who just didn’t make it in F1. Yet their delay in making public who will be their ‘young test driver’ is a little puzzling.

The last woman to drive at a grand prix weekend was Giovanna Amati in 1992, whilst the last female to start a race was Lella Lombardi at the 1976 Austrian GP.

As grand pappy Judge used to say, “time and tide wait for no man [or woman]”.

26 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Wednesday 19th June 2013

  1. Ridiculous comments from Dennis. Seems to me he’s trying to push the blame for McLaren’s lousy performance onto the drivers when its a corporate issue. The company has failed to produce a car that performs properly. I know who I’d fire.

    • Politics are very high at McLaren, Dennis falling out against Button and Button giving his full support to Whitmarsh, I think we will see either Ron or Martin out of McLaren pretty soon…

    • I agree that the blame shouldn’t be all on the drivers, but Jenson has a big responsibility too, and Dennis probably used the below formula to put the blame on Jenson.

      2009’s uncompetitive car : Whitmarsh + Lewis = 2 wins
      2013’s uncompetitive car : Whitmarsh + Jenson = x wins

      Solve for x at the end of the season!
      Although of course other factors play a role too.

  2. i think this may be a reminder to Jenson that he gets paid over ten times what Sergio is getting, with results that dont translate to the financial weighting

    • I would guess Sergio’s employment actually adds to McLarens profits, given his sponsorship. The fact of the matter is we have seen this script before. I’m beginning to wonder if there is some larger dysfunction in the McLaren team that causes them to target their senior driver whenever things go sideways.

      Those with a longer knowledge of the sport feel free to point out all the ways I’m wrong.

      • Don’t all companies do the same thing? Pin the blame on some manager or for an F1 team to the guys that you expect them to pull you through, an experienced driver being one of them?
        McLaren have done the same thing before when after a successful spell, they go a bit sideways, and then blame their lead driver provided he’s still there (see Lewis and Coulthard in the past and had Senna or Mika stayed for longer, they would have undoubtedly clashed big time with Ron eventually.

        • I’ve definitely seen it before in other environments, particularly high stress ones. Funny thing is often times the person hung out to dry isn’t responsible, just happened to make themselves visible at an unfortunate moment.

          Given he’s senior driver, definitely Jenson should be on the hot seat to an extent due to their lack of forward progress, but still, the Canada result is more down to bad strategy than lack of pace. He’s such a good PR speaker you’d think the automatic response would be “every point matters” even if it is frustrating given the team’s recent history of being on the sharp end, but clearly he’s quite unsettled at the moment.

  3. Didn’t Flavio call him a “Lazy Playboy Driver” many years ago, suppose you could take the “Playboy” bit out now. Thinks because he won a WDC in 2009 he’s done it, I see no hunger in him.

    • Thanks you’re right. Article amended.

      This outline of this story (Jenson’s surprising attitude to the loss of McLaren’s record) was drafted at the weekend following a conversation I had and some public comments made by Sam Michael on the F1 show. I don’t have access to TV recording right now but will provide them later.

      • Your honour,

        Please help me to understand.

        Your lead story begins with “…Jenson Button may be under internal pressure from the team.”

        Then we have a quote from Jenson, ““We should be doing much better. Driving for 1 point is irrelevant, we need to set our sights higher than that”. As you say in the article, that certainly seems true enough. It’s obvious to everyone that this is a team with the resources to see it fighting for podiums and wins, not scrabbling deep in the pack for a single point.

        So I continue reading this article in search of why you wrote, “…Jenson Button may be under internal pressure from the team.” You have a quote also from Button on how the team appears to him to be united and in full support of its team principle. OK, I see nothing there to support your lead statement that JB is under internal pressure, so I keep reading…

        Next is an apparent tangent on last season’s contract negotiations between the team and Lewis Hamilton. In looking for a connection to your lead that JB is under internal pressure, you state that Whitmarsh reports to Ron Dennis. That has always been true, but I fail to see how those two paragraphs have anything to do with the article’s lead. Perhaps the connection is so subtle that it should be made explicit instead for readers like me?

        Finally, you conclude this article by stating that JB’s attitude (which is that McLaren should be fighting for podiums and wins instead of flailing around deep in the pack fighting for a single point) is somehow crossing the team. What? How could one possible construe that quote is being an incorrect thing for JB to say about his team? Since I see nothing to support your lead statement (JB may be under internal pressure from the team) in the article, my last question is not rhetorical, as I’m genuinely curious.

        In support of your article’s lead, I do believe it’s true, not only for JB, but for every other driver on the F1 grid, (and most any driver on any grid), that they are under pressure from their team to perform well. Likewise, all teams will feel pressure from their drivers to perform well.

        • “Whitmarsh reports to Ron Dennis” – Whitmarsh has said he doesn’t.

          He has said “… [I am] …. CEO of the racing business and I am a board member of the group and I am the only executive director on that board now, and as such I report to the board … ”

          See also, http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula-one/22307813
          “Dennis also said that suggestions he had been interfering in the F1 team without the approval of fellow board members were “ridiculous” and that he had “categorically not” acted towards trying to remove Whitmarsh.”

          • P King, I appreciate the response.

            The team, McLaren Racing is owned by the McLaren Group. Ron Dennis is the Executive Chairman of the McLaren Group, and owns a significant portion of the McLaren Group’s shares.

            Back to TJ13, this article doesn’t make sense at this point. The two paragraphs about Ron Dennis appear to be a tangent that has not been tied back in to the point of the article, (JB is under pressure by his team).

          • Vrtex Motio: I was writing in support of your comments. Sorry if It did come across that way.

        • Agreed.

          While I find this blog interesting and entertaining, the writing can be very sloppy and/or lazy and it’s nice to see other readers challenging the author(s) to do better.

          In this article I especially found off-putting the unsupported allegations re. what “people” think/do/believe, such as:

          “In the grand scheme of McLaren’s heritage this may indeed be true. Yet there are those in McLaren who think this attitude is not good enough.”

          WHO are “those” people then? Cite/support your claims, Judge, please!

  4. Same here! Get Hulk in and built the team up with young drivers and a new engine partner. It didn’t harm Mika and Coulthard in the 90s…albeit Newey made the difference.

  5. Call me simple, but I don’t understand: How would someone who’s 30 years year old qualify for a “Young Drivers Test” in F1 where the three-times champion is only 25?

    Whatever merits otherwise exist, doesn’t this avenue fail by definition?

    • Formula1 regulations only define the young driver test as being open to drivers that have competed in no more than two world championship races (assume this is F1).

      If I recall correctly McLaren ran (and still does) Gary Paffet in their young driver tests while the lower end of the grid runs whoever brings the biggest suitcase of cash for the privilege of driving a F1 car.

      I’ll stick my neck out here – if the Merc engine deal has been sweetened with the view of getting Susie into the car as a race driver then we may see her in there. What I would have done is confirm her as a test driver (she must have had some experience on the simulator) and let her test. If she is rubbish then she wont get a drive – simple 🙂

    • Exactly.

      And the reason there are no women racing in F1 is because 1) they’re not good enough and 2) “the public” doesn’t care enough about a woman driving in F1.

      I certainly do not “want” a female driver in F1, especially not at the expense of a more-talented male driver. Wolff’s sense of entitlement is more than just annoying. She may be a professional race car driver, and no doubt she would drive circles around me, but she is not a very good racer in comparison to her peers. And THAT is why she doesn’t have a SuperLicense and shouldn’t and hopefully never will!

      For the only reason to award her one based on current merits (or lack thereof) would be political correctness or gender-bias (in favor of a woman).

      • Joe,
        I’m glad to see your comments here.

        I agree with many of your shared thoughts here, including Ms. Wolf’s competitiveness as a potential F1 driver (her DTM performance was disappointing and inadequate).

        However, unlike yourself, I would very much enjoy someday seeing a woman with the requisite abilities driving in F1.

  6. Hi TJ13

    Mclaren’s current woes are painful to watch.
    Martin Whitmarsh, “nice” as he is and now Sam Neill, along with current drivers are quite simply inferior material. When they go I hope to see Mclaren back up there winning with Lewis, swansong, as pilot after he wins a few more world champs with Mercedes.

    Now to the testing issue – Bernie’s Scorecard

    Given Bernie’s love of a duel, I see this as a spanking for Mercedes and a bligh for Pirelli. The stance of Mercedes in the negotiations for the not yet declared new Concorde agreement has riled the little man. I suspect this, other issues as well as the bribery legals will drive him to at least get a pound of flesh, one over on the Germans.

    I think he will save Charlie and slam someone else for an admin blunder, Money exchanged and touché. Ferrari and Red Bull will dismiss any ruling blessed in the knowledge that they will get more money than they need when new deal kicks in, which all parties will now suddenly agree to,

    My comment may indicate why I do not gamble.

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