Now that the 2012 Formula One season has concluded it’s time to reflect and analyse the successes and failures of the drivers and their respective teams. In the second part of the review, it’s the turn of the team of McLaren-Mercedes and their drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
If you count the points Lewis Hamilton lost to mechanical gremlins and ill fortune and add them to his championship total, you find he should have actually won the world championship, with around 290 points.
Three sure fire wins – Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Brazil – and the 75 point prize that would have ensued plus probable good results in Belgium, Valencia and Germany would, theoretically have given Hamilton the title. That’s not even mentioning the handful of points lost in the first third of the season from botched pit stops.
Yet at the beginning of the season it appeared as though the only thing stopping Hamilton taking his second title would be his team mate, Jenson Button who won the season opener in Melbourne.
The Australian Grand Prix saw McLaren take a dominant front row lockout and a 1-3 double podium finish in the race itself, only stopped from being a 1-2 by an unfortunately timed safety car costing Hamilton second place.
McLaren had at last started the season with the best baseline car, a rarity after a run of years where the Woking team had been forced to start the season playing catch-up.
But McLaren’s remarkable ability to be close but not close enough continued. One Driver’s championship since 2000 is an indictment of the team’s inability to keep a consistently fast car to rival their Milton Keynes nemesis, Red Bull.
Throughout the year, McLaren consistently held a raw pace advantage over the remaining teams. However there were some tracks, Silverstone being a prime example, where the MP4-27’s pace was strangely poor. Hamilton finished eighth and Button finished tenth, and it was days like these inter spaced with the previously mentioned mechanical hiccups which killed off McLaren’s championship bid.
McLaren really should have at least been in the championship frame at Brazil. The team has epic resources, an innovative technical department led by Paddy Lowe and arguably the best driver pairing on the grid. Yet again the dynamic came up short.
But in 2013 the team’s dynamic will have changed. Their prodigy, Lewis Hamilton, has departed for a rival team and the young Mexican charger, Sergio Perez has been signed up.
The decision to sign Perez is one which has generated reams of debate from insiders and journalists. His peaks are extraordinary and hint at world champion talent, second at Monza; second in Malaysia. However these peaks are sparse and his mistake and accident ridden end to the season was worrying.
McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh does understand this though, calling Perez a “diamond that needs polishing.”
With Jenson Button more renowned for his race pace and calculating strategy nous than his pure, qualifying speed, McLaren may be in need for some of Hamilton’s scintillating speed by Brazil next year. Or they may not. Only time will tell.