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Words with Whitmarsh

NEWS STORY
21/05/2013

Mat Coch writes:

Lowe a goodwill gesture

Releasing Paddy Lowe to Mercedes was the right thing to do, according to McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh.

Lowe effectively left McLaren shortly before the 2013 season kicked off, with speculation at the time linking him with a move to the Brackley squad. This week, after serving less than six months gardening leave, it was confirmed he will commence in his new Executive Director role at Mercedes on June 3.
Speculation had suggested McLaren and Mercedes cut a deal to allow Lowe to start so soon, a notion denied by Whitmarsh. "Paddy's been a loyal servant here and we felt it was the right thing to," he said in the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. "Other than that there's nothing else that we need to say."

McLaren this week announced it has signed a new engine deal with Honda, ending its relationship with Mercedes at the end of 2014 after 19 years. It was suggested Lowe's early departure was part of the team’s new engine deal.

"It's not related to the Honda deal," Whitmarsh scoffed. "The Honda deal and Mercedes deals had been done.

"It was entirely our decision and we believe that it creates some goodwill and it seemed like the right thing to do," he added. "He's chosen a route and we don't want to hold him back from that route unnecessarily."

Honda deal ensures long term success

While keeping Mercedes sweet with Lowe's early release Whitmarsh wasted no time in singing the praises of his squad's new engine partner. Although we won't see a McLaren Honda on track until 2015 Whitmarsh believes the deal was a necessary step to ensure the continued success of the team.

"Moving to Honda in 2015 gives us the bedrock of being one of the big teams and ensuring, in the long term, we've got the resources, we've got the correct structure and the focus to be successful," he explained.

"We know that we've got to be putting together a programme and a structure, a business structure, and better resources that provide us with a platform to be successful every year in the foreseeable future."

Correlation issues holding McLaren back

The buzzword over the Spanish Grand Prix was correlation, though without any explanation it could have meant anything from a design to a budgeting issue. Whatever it was it holds the key to unlocking McLaren's potential this year, we're told.

"Generally when Formula One teams talk about correlation it's about the aerodynamic performance," the McLaren boss clarified.

"Teams measure through their analysis with CFD, they measure with their 60% scale testing in wind tunnels, they measure in what's called straight line running of the car and then they measure on the track itself in a dynamic environment," he elaborated.

"In an ideal world you'd like them to all be identical, you'd have perfect correlation - considerably less challenge but that would be a nice world. They never will correlate because of various factors; the complexity of the aerodynamic analysis, the scale effect from wind tunnels, the fact that the tyres are such a significant element aerodynamically."

Tyres, tyres, tyres

"This is a perennial one," Whitmarsh sighed when asked the inevitable. "Formula One has a habit of talking down the show that we put on."

His comments come in the wake of the Spanish Grand Prix, where a four-stopping Fernando Alonso won the race in a tyre-dominated weekend. The event intensified criticisms of Pirelli's rubber, with the Italian company admitting it will be making changes to the tyres in the near future.

Yet while this seems to address concerns held by drivers and fans, Whitmarsh urges caution. Indeed, despite the suggestion that his car suffers from the latest generation of Pirelli tyres, Whitmarsh suggests that there is currently no problem and that it should be left to dictate the direction the sport goes on tyres, so long as Formula One continues to put on a show.

"If the tyres are very, very consistent, no degradation, there's only one stop and it's formulaic. Everyone in the field stops half way, changes their tyres and does the second half. We complain. It's a very difficult balancing act.

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