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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week