McLaren have always seemed to be the thinkers of Formula 1. But for a while they seem to have had their mind on other things. Much as Ron likes to protest it he was distracted by first the McLaren motorhome and then the McLaren headquarters. In fact the running of the McLaren group as apposed to the racing part seems to have been his focus ever since Kimi arrived. A terrible shame as I hope Kimi will prove at Ferrari this year.
Taking his eye off of the ball like this meant that Adrian Newey couldn’t stay. And actually it was impossible to keep him. He’d done winning at McLaren, so why would he be interested in more of it. McLaren probably wasted time by keeping him on when he was desperate to do something else (he even considered designing racing boats at one point so he was pretty desperate).
But things started changing at McLaren just over a year ago. Personally I think Ron decided not to bother really competing in 2006, he didn’t expect to not even win one race but he did know it was a transition year before the start. He signed Alonso, he had a chance on Hamilton (at the beginning of the season he couldn’t have known how well Hamilton would settle over the course of the year). He finally knew what was happening with Adrian Newey so he could work out the new strategy. And probably the most important thing of all McLaren group finally made a profit last year. This has probably freed Ron from one of his personal challenges.
So what does this all mean? I think McLaren are going to come out next year all guns blazing and full of promise. Why? Because Ron’s started making proper decisions again. It was a ballsy move to hire Alonso out from under the noses of Renault, it’s another one to put a rookie alongside him and finally the move to hire Mika as a test driver is genius.
They know that every second you can get of testing is vital, and the testing you get earlier is even more vital to the cars development. And we know that Lewis Hamilton and Gary Paffett don’t have any F1 racing experience. And while we know that Pedro is a great tester and has some racing experience it is hardly the kind of thing that’s going to get a championship car ready. There’s been a lot of talk from McLaren that this is a one off thing and it came from Miki etc. But there was one quote from Ron which said something like “with Alonso unavailable and with Kimi and Juan-Pablo disinclined to help us we needed to turn to somebody else” which makes me feel that they are making the right decision. Mika will be able to tell very quickly how the car is hanging together. He won’t be able to tell them things like is this bit better than before or whatever that’s the other testers jobs. He’s going to talk to them about the raciness of the whole car and that’s really important.
For a while I really have felt that Ron has lost his ability to make a single decision. McLaren have a very complicated system using Bayesian Logic to basically make decisions for them (I’m going to talk about this in another article). And it would make the “right” decision but would it ever make the “ballsy” decision? This lead to McLaren having heavy fuel loads and putting the cars in the middle of the pack which lead to McLaren not winning. But this set of decisions of late remind me more of the Ron of old. The whiley fox who would say, “you just wait” and actually mean it.