McLaren must lift game or drivers will wander

British team need to cut out errors if they don't want title-hungry Hamilton and Button to consider options

After all the hyperbole and gung-ho jingoism before the race, the British Grand Prix was a train wreck for McLaren. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put things together again after the performance drop-off in Valencia. And in a race in which McLaren desperately needed not just to kickstart a recovery in their world championship fight but do sufficient to convince both drivers to stay beyond 2012, all they ended up doing was shooting themselves in the foot.

The unexpected resurgence of Ferrari came at the wrong time, and even the post-race argument over team orders at Red Bull was no consolation. Jenson Button was a podium contender until an error in the pits saw him sent back out without the front right wheel nut attached. Lewis Hamilton, having driven brilliantly and made the ultimately victorious Fernando Alonso look slow during a climb as high as second from 10th, had to go on an economy run after miscalculations on fuel consumption.

Both drivers' misfortunes were signs of a disintegrating world championship campaign by one of the greatest teams in racing, after a dreadful weekend.

Hamilton, under his new management deal with Simon Fuller, has already been making noises about a possible move to Red Bull when his contract runs out at the end of next season, and though team principal Christian Horner firmly rejected that idea last week, the 2008 champion's dissatisfaction has been no secret this year, the third in which McLaren's aerodynamic performance has lagged behind Red Bull's. Button is out of contract at the end of this year, and though McLaren will exercise an option to keep him for 2012, because they love his even temperament and technical feedback, he could be looking elsewhere for 2013, too. Hence the need for a good performance at the weekend.

Support for McLaren came last week when Hamilton's father, Anthony, offered his son, whom he no longer manages, some sage advice.

"It's just that something is missing and they'll find it," he told the BBC Sportsweek programme in reference to McLaren's problems. "They're going through a little bit of turmoil like you do in any relationship, but it is going to be a happy marriage if he stays. As a driver, Lewis has an opportunity to bring everybody together rather than let them fall apart."

Whether his son's new management agrees remains to be seen, but when you aren't winning and your main rivals are, it's not hard to see why the grass elsewhere can look greener.

"Both drivers did a great race," McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh said of Silverstone. "Jenson was driving very well, looking after his tyres, and could have challenged for the podium. It was a human error, and in fairness the team are just about the most consistent at pitstops, and have done a fantastic job.

"For Lewis it was a great race. We didn't expect to be able to get through the traffic that quickly early on. The engineers calculate the fuel based on what they assume to be the race pace, and it was a bit quicker than we'd expected. It's a massive challenge to be told to save fuel. It's counter intuitive, you lose temperature in your tyres, your brakes, and it becomes very difficult. I think Lewis coped with that in a very disciplined and mature way."

More than once in recent years Ferrari have had spectacular cock-ups, but they have bounced back, as they demonstrated at Silverstone. So will McLaren. The big teams always do. And even though Hamilton's prospects elsewhere are decidedly limited, given Horner's comments and the fact that Alonso would never allow Ferrari to employ the man he refers to only by surname, they need to do it quickly.

The 2011 title is far beyond reach; the focus has to be on getting the train out of the buffers and back on the rails for the German GP at Nürburgring in 12 days' time. And making sure that, even though neither of them will be world champion this year, Hamilton and Button really can be in 2012 and beyond.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk