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McLaren needs to get back to basics and eliminate the problems which have plagued its 2012 season, according to Managing Director Jonathan Neale.
Speaking during the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in, Neale believes the underlying pace and competitiveness is there, but to tap in to it consistently the team needs an error free weekend.
"We've had some operations mistakes," he concedes. "We need to eliminate those from our game. Obviously in Formula One the slightest slip and you pay a heavy price for it. That's why we love the sport; you have to be good at everything."
Pit stop errors in Bahrain cost the team dearly, ruining any hope Lewis Hamilton had of a good result, and while things are improving there is more to the picture than just changing tyres, Neale believes. "If anyone is actually doing the maths and charting where the quickest stop times are coming from on pit stops you'll see that ours are consistently improving.
"With the benefit of data, hindsight and cooling of heads post Monaco we can see that what Alonso did in taking 2.9 seconds out of us during his in lap for his pit stop more than dominated any time lost in a pit stop," he admits.
The key is finding the sweet spot with the car and eliminating those mistakes and Neale is firmly of the opinion that the underlying performance remains. "Six races in, with six different winners and five different constructors having won a race just goes to show how close it is and to some extent how challenging it is at the top.
"The car definitely has the pace and the upgrades are coming through thick and fast but it is very tight. You're only looking at a tenth or two and you can move a lot of places during qualifying," he continues. "That makes it very exciting for everybody who's a fan of the sport and watches the races, so if you're agnostic or just like to see good racing, that's terrific, if you're a managing director of a Formula One business that's a different game all together."
With speculation surrounding Lewis Hamilton's future Neale was at pains to deny suggestions that the team's recent run of results could see the 2008 champion leave at the end of the season. "I wouldn't put the last two or three races in to a professionals mind like Lewis' is in terms of the long term ability for where he's going to be comfortable in the future," he says.
A source has confirmed to Pitpass that contract discussions have not yet begun, and that the team is in no hurry, a point reiterated by Neale. "We've got plenty of time; we don't need to make that decision until much later this year," he says. "We've said quite clearly we'd like Lewis to continue racing for us, Lewis has said he'd like to continue racing for us.
While talk of Hamilton's future is premature that of the sport itself is not. In the wake of the Monaco Grand Prix teams gathered to discuss sustainability with specific attention to cost cutting. "I wasn't at the meeting but yes it's true that the teams are trying hard to ensure the sustainability and the good health of Formula One going forward," says Neale.
"It's not just for the teams but also for the fans and also the engine manufacturers. The progress that's been made between FOTA and the teams working closely with FOM and the FIA in the last few years for such things as the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA) have gone a long way towards achieving that.
"We stand on the cusp of a step change in the regulations for us to be continuing to keep that under review and make sure we're in good health for the next five years," he adds. "There are broad discussions around that at the moment; everyone still has to go through the proper channels, through the Formula One commission and be agreed by all the teams but that's the intent behind it."
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