Monday, 25 March 2013

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

McLaren. What is going on at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes? (they won't be called that for much longer)

McLaren had a pretty good end to the 2012 season. They won the last two races to end a mixed year, with the loss of Lewis Hamilton to the Mercedes works team. Now, we know that title sponsor Vodafone are ending their relationship with the team which began in 2007, the year Hamilton made his debut in F1. The reason for this is unclear but I do believe that Hamilton's exit swayed Vodafone. This sponsorship deal was big money to McLaren and losing that deal must be a blow. However, McLaren have announced that a replacement will announced on December 2nd and Hamilton's replacement, Sergio Perez, is backed by a company called Telmex. Telemex is part-owned by a man named Carlos Slim, who is the world's richest man, with a fortune of $73 billion. Can anyone say Telmex McLaren Honda?

As for Honda, well, as I've written in a previous post, are rumoured to be returning to F1 as an engine supplier, in 2015 if reports are accurate. If true, this would mean McLaren sticking with Mercedes next year. What this could mean is McLaren reverse engineering the Mercedes engine with Honda and finding out it's pros and cons. Mercedes have insisted that they will protect themselves from something like this but I'm not sure how they could stop it if McLaren do use them.

Back to this season, it has been, in a word, shambolic. McLaren have been painfully slow and all pre-season optimism has evaporated into thin air. This was surprising given their end of season form last year and the promise they showed at the first pre-season test. The problem is apparently the new push rod suspension system, which is similar to the one Ferrari had trouble with last season.

Sergio Perez driving the McLaren MP4-28.
Will McLaren fix this issue? Possibly. They have three weeks until the Chinese Grand Prix and should be spending it finding why the car is so slow compared to its nearest rivals. McLaren will recover from setbacks, it's in their history.

When Honda pulled out of F1 in the early 90s, after struggling with Cosworth and Peugeot, McLaren recovered. After losing the West sponsorship McLaren came back and they will after losing Vodafone, Mercedes and Hamilton. If they don't then Martin (I can't stop making excuses) Whitmarsh should be fired. Teams have a tendency of bouncing back after losing their Vodafone sponsorship anyway. In 2007, Ferrari's ex-McLaren man Kimi Raikkonen beat the dueling bitch-fest between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton by 1 point. In the same year, Manchester United came back from 3 years of not winning the Premier League to reclaim their crown, after switching from Vodafone to AIG. Maybe McLaren can make it a hat-trick in 2014?

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