It would probably be consistent to have a “How to do it right” in the title of this entry, but I am not sure “right” is the best word for that. “Brilliant” definitely is!
One couldn’t think of two races more different than Chinese GP and Bahrain yesterday, while in China everything was about strategy, in Bahrain we have got some great racing. I have to say, that even though I watched a replay of the race, knowing who won and having followed the race on twitter, it was a nail-biting one – some interesting strategic calls, but mostly battles and what a battles. “That’s what this sport is all about; it’s called racing.” — said Martin Whitmarsh, and his drivers were the ones responsible for quite a bit of racing in Bahrain. I have to say that it pleases me a lot to see McLaren in the headlines, not only because McLaren is my biggest love in Formula One, but also because of the nature of these headlines. It is nice to see that at McLaren there’s no discrepancy between promises and deeds: they said no team orders, there are no team orders; they said they let the drivers race and there drivers race. And how!
There has been a lot of criticism for Sergio lately, and he had – and still has – tough time at McLaren. He has to adapt to a new team, but this is the lesser of his problems, he has to be able to perform in a terrible car with a big brand on it – this is a challenge. Sergio had to be “more aggressive”, said Martin Whitmarsh, and this is exactly what Perez did. Maybe next time mr. Whitmarsh will be more careful in his choice of words. Sergio has shown some impressive fighter qualities in the race yesterday, but I seriously doubt it will, and that it should silence the critics.
In his radio messages as well as in post-race commentary Jenson sounded upset about the way battles with Checo went, and in my opinion it is perfectly understandable. But as Sergio pointed out, he was not the only one, who’s been rather aggressive, Jenson himself pretty much pushed him of the track. I do appreciate the team internal racing, this is exactly what I love McLaren for but I found the tone of it rather alarming. I believe that’s a part of learning process, though, and Sergio has to – and will – learn how to deal with the combination of force and freedom at his disposal. Jenson’s comments even on the radio didn’t sound like accusation it sounded like criticism (there is a huge difference between those), and if Sergio is smart and the team will guide him, he will soon be able to improve.
I loved how the team dealt with the situation, and I have to say that I really admire Jenson. Button is a great team player, but he’s still a racing driver, and he obviously doesn’t find it amusing, to be outraced by his 10 years younger team-mate, especially with the battle against Perez being a major reason why he had to pit for the 4th time. But he was able to play the team game in his usual charming way.
This amazing unity is what I love McLaren for, and it’s funny how within a couple of weeks we’ve seen two completely opposite examples how the idea of a team is approached: with RedBull where everyone blamed everyone for everything with a considerable splash of accusation and rage; and with McLaren where despite some displeasure there were no reproaches. I am sure there will be team-internal discussions, and there should be, but the way Martin Whitmarsh praises his drivers even in tough times, how he protects them and how he logically and consistently explains their behaviour to the media is a great way to deal with any issues. And this is not a one-time thing, it is the way McLaren treats the idea of being a team. Just remember how they dealt with the criticism directed at Lewis in 2011, or the issue with an Australian GP in 2009 – the first reaction of management is to protect their people no matter what. McLaren face the media as a unity in good and bad times and I admire the team for it.
I am really happy that for once McLaren were in a spotlight. It is a luxury when you can be proud of your team no matter whether they win or lose, and McLaren give me that luxury. McLaren are not winning right now, and not that it didn’t matter for me, but as a fan I am enjoying the way am much as the destination, and if this year a McLaren wins a race, it will – in terms of emotions- be worth much more than a championship won in a Vettel-2011 style would.