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What is going on at McLaren?


Even before Matt Bishop was recruited by McLaren as Head of Communications and Public Relations in 2008 - having been lured from F1 Racing, the magazine he is rightly credited as having built into a world leader - the Woking team had a certain reputation for being no slouch when it came to acting on negative PR.

Under 'The Bish' however, no sooner has an 'errant' article appeared than the email or text arrives, or, in extreme cases, the phone will ring... loudly.

Consequently one has to wonder what on earth is happening at Woking at present. As the team finds itself in the midst of a media s**t-storm, accused of "dithering" and being "disrespectful" to a popular British driver (a world champion no less), the silence is deafening. If he had any hair, poor Matt would have torn it out by now… several times over.

With the team said to be welcoming (back) one of the best drivers to have graced the sport and on the verge of re-establishing one of the most successful constructor-engine manufacturer partnerships, it should be proudly beating its chest, its rivals should be quaking in their boots, yet instead it is pretty much becoming a laughing stock.

At Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel has not only been welcomed to the bosom of the team, he has spent a day in the simulator and another on track, all caught on camera, his tentative opening laps at Fiorano on video. Meanwhile, at Woking, where we are told Fernando Alonso is preparing for the second coming, not a peep.

All of which makes you wonder whether the "dithering" over Jenson and Kevin - or do we include Stoffel following Ron Dennis' cryptic remarks in Abu Dhabi - is part of a more complicated situation.

Never mind announcing who will partner the Spaniard, when, precisely, is the Woking team going to officially confirm (or deny) the return of Alonso?

The last time the Woking outfit dithered so publicly was in 1995, it was early January before Nigel Mansell - another popular Briton, another world champion - was confirmed, even though it was a marriage that didn't last. A year earlier, Martin Brundle wasn't confirmed as Mike Hakkinen's teammate until just over a week before the season opener in Brazil.

Under pressure from fans and the media McLaren announced in the build up to the season finale that any announcement regarding its 2015 line-up was to be deferred until "no earlier than Monday December 1st".

Of course, giving a date was an unwise move as most, especially in this age of instant reportage, were therefore expecting the line-up finalised by December 2nd, at the latest. Instead after two "board meetings" we are none the wiser, and the team, under increasing pressure, having to resort to tweeting a somewhat pathetic: "Guys, we hear your feedback and will bring you news of our driver line-up as soon as a decision has been made".

It's fair to say that the post-season test, despite the spin from Eric Boullier, was a disaster, sending rivals into the winter chuckling as opposed to quaking in their boots. Though Honda will be working flat-out to rectify its obvious problems one has to wonder how this went down with Mr Alonso, a man who has already endured more than his fair share of frustration at Ferrari. Could the two-time world champion have thrown a spanner in the works by announcing (quietly) that he prefers to take some time out whilst Honda gets its act together?

We are all focussing on the situation in terms of Jenson and Kevin, perhaps the "dithering" is because the original plan has been changed and the team is now seeking an alternative.

And if we are really going down the conspiracy theory route, why a “board meeting” to decide on drivers… unless such a decision is part of a much bigger picture that we’re not yet seeing.

In the meantime, the fan and media assault continues, all of which doesn't do the team any good, especially as it seeks to attract the big name sponsors.

Unless we hear from The Bish, something isn't right here.

Chris Balfe


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1. Posted by SideGlance, 11/12/2014 8:32

"Regardless about sponsors, salary, #1, etc I find it astounding that Fernando would drive for Ron !! I suspect Alonso does NOT want a new challenge but to win races and the DC !! I do not think McL will win a race in 2015, unless bezarro occurs, let alone DC !

I don't think Ron respects the abilities of JB, hard not to see them, even though KM is good and will be a great driver someday, JB is far superior to him now - a no brainer decision - so Ron will F%$K it up I am sure !!

Ron's ego makes him a strange negotiator too, Briatore thought him having extremely odd and strange reasoning at times, more complicated that it had to be, so Ron boy is likely the real reason for this OR if Alonso is smart, FA is making Ron's head spin, deservedly so (KM is Ron current love child, Hamilton was in 2007, Alonsi does not want more of Ron's preferential treatment I am sure) !!

I am sure Alonso would love to F%*k up Ron's doings even now, maybe he will somehow ?

Alonso certainly deserves much better than Ferrari gave him and frankly McL will give him next year, as does JB & KM for that matter !!

FA said we would NOT be surprised at where he drives in 2015, but was that McL or MB ?

I only wish JB and KM the best of luck!! And F%*k you Ron !!"

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2. Posted by Spindoctor, 10/12/2014 13:30

"I find it almost impossible to believe that Ron Dennis would allow Alonso another drive, let alone to "welcome" him back! Whatever the wrongs & rights of "Spygate", Alonso appears to have grassed-up McLaren in a fit of pique because he was well & truly beaten by Hamilton, and the team refused to favour him over the rookie. These are not great qualifications for a team-member in what is very much a team game.

I also can't see McLaren overturning a long-time policy of driver equality and granting Alonso No.1 status. Unlike RBR & Ferrari No.1 at McLaren is decided on the track, not during contract negotiations.

Assuming Ron's probable objections have been overcome (or outvoted) and Mr Alonso really is a target for McLaren, why on earth is it unannounced? Surely Fernando can't seriously believe he might get a seat at Mercedes, let alone the one with "Hamilton" written on it? Even assuming Mercedes wanted to "dump" Hamilton, both of the reasons why Ron would be reluctant to offer him a drive also apply at Mercedes.

The whole sorry business of driver selection at McLaren is making them a laughing stock. Ron Dennis has historically appeared decisive, and this corporate indecision does not bode well for 2015. Given the likely lower top 5 performance of the 2015 car (unless McLaren seriously improve the chassis over the Winter) the choice of driver seems more likely to be based on sponsorship than outright performance.

So maybe it all comes down to who Alonso can bring with him, and if its (say) Santander, then Ron will probably swallow his pride and offer him the drive...."

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3. Posted by TimothyWilliams, 10/12/2014 12:02

"Is it possible that Alonso is holding back until Hamilton and Mercedes have put pen to paper?"

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4. Posted by macca_boy, 08/12/2014 5:10

"And by the way, knowing how Ron operates (loathe him or admire him, the guy is not an idiot when it comes to doing business), I am pretty sure he is also trying to pull a double whammy: 1) most likely he negotiated with Honda "I don't want Alonso, you want him, that's fine, but you pay his salary then"; b) he is most likely negotiating some big Spanish tittle sponsor."

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5. Posted by macca_boy, 08/12/2014 5:02

"I honestly find it a bit baffling that almost nobody, even most of the media, have realized that irrespective of the power struggles at the top and Ron wanting to retake control the issue is not deciding between Button or Kevin. That decision can be made in 5 minutes and they have all the data to back that decision based on their priorities. No, the real issue is that Alonso has most likely not really signed a contract. He does not want to drive for McLaren, he wants to drive for MB and he is waiting on news of how Hamilton's negotiation with the team will end up. McLaren not realizing they are not really what Alonso wants is just going to result in a more damaging year than 2007, especially if the car does not perform. Why do you think Alonso has never been confirmed? Because they are waiting on his teammate? Ha... no, it's because he is not yet on their payroll. As simple as that."

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6. Posted by jo6pac, 06/12/2014 21:27

"6. Posted by blackdog, 4 hours ago

Rumor has it Ron is looking for money to buy out the Middle East partners. There's a dead line Ron has to meet. Chris do you know anything about this?

I do agree with your other comment and I do hope it's Jenson and Alonso. "

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7. Posted by yeyox, 06/12/2014 21:14

"No problem McLaren and if you want, you can announce your drivers line up on 13 or 15 of March, anyhow Jenson or Kevin can find another seat the next day. There is plenty of time."

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8. Posted by Andy, 06/12/2014 20:59

"I will make this plain and simple...Mclaren have made a complete hash over the driver didn't take them long to sign ALO but seems that the second seat is taking an eternity...MCL say that the British fans want JB to sign because we are British...far from it...if MCL/HON look at the bigger picture they would realise that the fans are more intelligent than they think they are....JB is a WDC2009...JB beat HAM when he was at MCL...JB beat K MAG....JB beat BAR at Brawn GP...JB is has the know how, experience and knowledge to help MCL and HON develop 2015 car and set legacy in the development cycle

Life without JB would set MCL HON back in the development cycle and take longer to achieve its disrespect to KMAG....after all I am a F1 Armchair Association fan...but one that looks at the bigger picture

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9. Posted by kiwi2wheels, 06/12/2014 19:25

"Maybe Dennis and Alonso are arguing over the length and style of Alonso's beard........................

Wouldn't be surprising, considering the rumors of Dennis having the gravel on his drive put through a washing machine.....................

Pity he didn't get a ban over spygate, I'd prefer Briatore to him any day !"

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10. Posted by MrShadow, 06/12/2014 18:24

"Follow the money. McLaren is not going to pay Fernando from their own pockets, so until the title sponsor is signed they will not confirm. All drivers know the details, but nothing can be disclosed until the last signature is placed."

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11. Posted by blackdog, 06/12/2014 17:31

"McSerb, Sorry but what you have posted is utter and complete tosh!
Alonso is not confirmed yet, whoever is paying.
Both Alonso and Hamilton have publicly said that Jenson is a great driver and racer who should be in F1. In fact Lewis said that if he had a team, he would want Jenson driving in it.
Given that Fernando and Lewis are THE two best drivers in F1, forgive me, but they know a hell of a lot more about Jenson Button's driving abilities than you do.
A Honda Button reunion would be, as I said below, Media and Marketing gold, because, at least morally speaking he was their champion in 2009 too, in much the same way that Ross Brawn can and should take some credit for Mercedes winning both titles this year. His efforts made a significant contribution to that success, as Toto very generously and correctly declared.
You write that McL seem to want a driver who will pay for himself? Really?
So, do you have any idea what Jenson's 126 points score is worth in cash to McL? Considerably more than the 55 points scored by Kevin (and I have nothing against Kevin at all).
You don't see any other teams fighting to sign Jenson?, because, Hello, anybody there?, ALL the other teams have already signed their drivers for next year.

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12. Posted by blackdog, 06/12/2014 17:00

"Good article Chris. Not a even word re Alonso, so what exactly is going on?
I heard from a friend at MTC that many there together with Mansour Ojjeh and the Bahrainis want Jenson but Ron wants Kevin.
Since Ojjeh and Bahrain have 75% of the shares, I can't understand why they don't simply put their collective foot down and out vote Ron.
Better still, given this highly embarrassing mess, they should give a vote of no confidence and push Ron to one side.
They should then get Jenson to call his old chum Ross and get him on board, with full powers to do what Ross does best, and whip McL back into shape pronto.
Imagine, Ross Brawn in charge with Jenson and Kevin driving. Brilliant!
Mind you, I would be quite sorry not to see Jenson get the opportunity to go head to head against Fernando, which possibility is about the only thing that has kept my flagging spirits up since Abu Dhabi.
I am somewhat surprised not to hear any opinion from Honda.
Given that it was Honda money that paid for the design and build of the 2009 Brawn GP car, morally speaking, Jenson is Honda's champion too.
A Button Honda reunion would be media and marketing gold, to say nothing of Jenson's huge experience working with Honda in the past and his huge fan base in Japan.
As my old chum Mr Warwick said, it is disgusting how Dennis has treated Jenson and Kevin, but should we really be that surprised? RD has always been a first class megalomaniac asshole in my opinion and that is based on direct experience.
I shouldn't wonder if Alonso and Honda are seriously wondering what on earth they've got themselves into.

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13. Posted by McSerb, 06/12/2014 16:54

"Honda insisted on Alonso, or Vettel or Hamilton. Contrary to the hopes of Jenson Button fans who put his girlfriend Jessica Michibata into the picture as well as his driving for BAR Honda. Yes, they know him at Honda and in Japan and they are not interested. Get it ? They are not interested in him and they insisted on a TOP driver (which he is not) and they agreed to pay for the contract of that top driver. Now it is up to McLaren to decide which driver THEY will pay for. McLaren seem to want a driver who will pay for himself, so the initial choice was Magnussen, but the Danish companies are not interested and he will probably not be signed, as a measure of retaliation (to be honest, the kid was not so hot anyway). Button will probably stay now and his fans should be happy about it instead of complaining. I don`t see any other teams fighting over him. He is history. Quit now or next year, what`s the big difference ? He is not going to win the WDC you know."

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14. Posted by F One, 06/12/2014 16:08

"McLaren are getting serious delusions of grandeur at the moment.
Dragging their feet so pathetically. Who the hell do they think they are to toy with Jenson and Kevin and Fernando in such a fashion?

At this point I hope all 3 of them tell McLaren to get stuffed and leave them with no drivers at all.

Shove that up your stupid Ronspeak ****, Ron Dennis."

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15. Posted by kiwi2wheels, 06/12/2014 14:42

"Ron Dennis will have added to the legions of F1 followers who .........hate his guts .


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