what’s really wrong at McLaren? #F1

Ron Dennis re-asserting himself was never going to result in a miracle sure, but his team seem to have slipped back from a promising start to 2014 since he took charge, so what’s going on down in Woking?Martin Whitmarsh always came over as a good leader of the team; calm, positive and in control and that was a refreshing change after decades of paranoia (some of which might have been justified, if occasionally self-inflicted). Results had slipped away under his regime, but was that a problem with him? Perhaps not.

Sam Michael oversaw a decline at Williams before he was moved on and his arrival at McLaren seems more linked to the decline at Woking than Martin Whitmarsh. I understand that Mr Michael occupies a different position at McLaren, but the general malaise at the team seems more linked to his presence.

Last year’s car was a bold gamble and it would seem likely that RD had some say in agreeing to go that way, but the result was a cock-up. This year’s car seemed better to begin with, but has slipped badly back into the second division over the first four races. That does not suggest that the removal of the team principle has done any good; over at Ferrari they have also seen a change in the man at the top, but there the previous incumbent’s work is showing through in terms of a first podium of the year. McLaren made their change well before the first race and have gone backwards since.

Some of that could be a motivation issue for Big Ron is known as a micro manager whereas MW was a leader and a group that had worked well under what seemed like a good no-blame culture are not likely to respond so well to the big cheese looking over their shoulders, but it also suggests that there is a more significant weak link in the chain and maybe that is Mr Michael.

The Dan Fallows saga is curious. Allegedly he signed a contract with McLaren in March this year, but now Red Bull have announced that he is staying with them and Big Ron is not happy and threatening to sue. Presumably Mr Fallows is entitled to change his mind; maybe he got a better offer or maybe he didn’t like the look of what he was getting into. We will never know the truth, but McLaren announcing, at the start of the racing season, that they were hiring a new guy is going to have some motivational issues for the incumbent team surely?

Ron Dennis has overseen some great cars in his time in racing and he has assembled good people to design and build them. No doubt he will do that again and it will be good to see him do it, but the current situation does not look promising and maybe we need to write off another year before the arrival of Honda power in 2015. Time will tell.

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