Reshuffle at McLaren to ensure driver equality

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The Independent Online

Jenson Button is to benefit from a behind-the-scenes reshuffle at McLaren as the team strive to guarantee equality between their two drivers.

Since Lewis Hamilton burst onto the scene in 2007, McLaren have consistently faced questions about favouritism within the team, and insistently replied their drivers are given equal treatment.

It has today emerged Button, on a visit to the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, even asked, 'Is this Lewis' team'?

It would appear Button is eager for parity ahead of the defence of the Formula One world title he won last year, and in facing a team-mate who has been with McLaren since the age of 13.

With Button now on board, and believing it to be the right time to make changes, Hamilton's race engineer for the last three years, Phil Prew, becomes McLaren's principal race engineer.

Hamilton will now have at his side Andy Latham, who has been with McLaren Racing since 2000, while Button will be overseen by Jakob Andreason, who was Prew's assistant with Hamilton.

"When Jenson visited MTC, one of the questions he asked was, 'Is this Lewis' team?'," said McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale.

"The answer was, 'Yes, of course it's Lewis' team, as it was Heikki Kovalainen's team, Fernando Alonso's, Juan Pablo Montoya's and Kimi Raikkonen's, and it will be your team as well.'

"Is this Lewis' team to the exclusion of any other high-performance driver? Absolutely not.

"At McLaren, we love winning drivers and we want to go about telling the world that story."

As to the reasoning behind the reshuffle, Neale replied: "Firstly, we felt it was the right time.

"Both our current race engineers, Phil Prew and Mark Slade (Heikki Kovalainen), have been the team's race engineers for more than 15 years.

"We've now a number of very good people who are trained and ready to go and we want to give them the platform from which they can make their experience and expertise really count.

"We also want to build an engineering team around Jenson in exactly the same way we did with Lewis back in 2007.

"We want to create a strong group of individuals who can bring out the best in Jenson's naturally smooth style.

"Now we have Jenson confirmed to drive alongside Lewis, we want to make absolutely sure we can do an equal job for both drivers.

"We're giving both drivers a fresh engineering team, with Phil as the bridge between them both.

"It ensures greater parity between the drivers but it's primarily to ensure there's total transfer in the learning of set-up development.

"It gives us a figurehead and a go-to person for the rest of the organisation across the race weekend, so they can ask Phil: 'What's happening with set-up? Which way are we going?"'