- British Grand Prix
'We cannot be happy' - Whitmarsh
Martin Whitmarsh has admitted he is far from happy about McLaren's performance during qualifying for the British Grand Prix, but insists the team will bounce back.
After Jenson Button qualified 5th and Lewis Hamilton 10th at the team's home grand prix, Whitmarsh launched into a lengthily explanation of what had gone wrong and how McLaren was fighting to change it.
Hamilton's result was partly explained by the team's decision to send him out on used-soft tyres for his qualifying lap, which Whitmarsh admitted was a mistake after rain fell during his second run on new tyres. But the McLaren team principal said he was far from happy with the car's performance overall and that the restriction on off-throttle blown diffusers this weekend had hit it particularly hard.
"This team and these great drivers cannot be happy," he said. "If there is any doubt about it, we're not happy, we're not content, we are disappointed. That's the fact and it's quite obvious.
"I think we can bore everyone silly about diffusers, exhaust gases, whatever - the fact is that over the last 18 months everyone has been working hard to develop exhaust blown diffusers. We've worked particularly hard in that area and we've had lots of twists and turns and changes. The fact is that during the course of this weekend there have been some changes and we did not put on a competitive showing. And we know that.
"Do we know precisely why? Not entirely, but I think it's reasonable to assume that in all those changes we haven't been able to respond to them or the impact on us was greater. To go from what has been a competitive car to fairly uncompetitive, there's no magic, that's what's happened. We understand that and we accept it."
Whitmarsh is confident the team will fight back over the coming races, but admitted the speed at which it bounces back will be dictated by the upcoming decision over the future of the exhaust regulations.
"We're a strong team with two great team players and we're not going to be content until we recover," he added. "Can we recover quickly enough? I think, from what I'm told, the rules are going to change again in a few weeks time and maybe the pendulum swings back and maybe it doesn't. But whatever is served to us, we are going to be tough enough and resilient enough to power through and that's what we do as a team.
As for the team's immediate prospects in Sunday's race, Whitmarsh admitted its chances looked bleak.
"Is it going to be difficult to beat the Red Bulls? Yes, it's going to be very difficult. Is it difficult to beat the Ferraris? Yes, it's going to be very, very difficult. But we've got two guys who I know are going to try their very best to try and do that.
"Is it going to be difficult to catch them in two weeks time? Yes it will be - I can tell you that so don't ask the question. But we aren't going to give up, we're a great race team, we're not resting on our laurels but we've got a fantastic heritage we're used to winning races and we don't like not winning races, we don't enjoy it and it's not much fun."
Speaking about the title race, Whitmarsh said McLaren had not given up but would take each race one at a time.
"We're not giving up, we're not giving up tomorrow and we're not giving up on this championship," he added. "We're going to try and win races, realistically that's what we're just going to concentrate on. Do we concentrate on trying to win a championship? Well frankly at the moment that's probably the wrong focus. [The right focus] is get back to being as competitive as quickly as possible, to win races and just see where it goes from there.
"We aren't quick enough. But we will regroup. Whatever the regulations are, wherever the dial turns and rests eventually, we'll understand it. We've got great engineers, we've got a committed team and there is no team in the world that can recover a situation as quickly and as strongly as this team. We've proved it before, we don't like having to do it, but occasionally you have to do it and that's what we are going to aim to do in the course of the next few weeks."
Whitmarsh was flanked by Button and Hamilton during his monologue and, despite rumours linking both drivers to other teams in recent weeks, they backed up their team principal.
When questioned about his motivation at McLaren, Hamilton responded: "Motivation is something you find within and I have never struggled to find motivation in my career. Since I was eight years old I've always been able to find motivation to dig myself out and lift myself up at the toughest times. While this appears to be one of the toughest times, we are the only other team to have won two grands prix this year and there will be more grands prix wins at some stage once we make the next step in improvements and catch up."
Button added: "It's been a very tough day for us. I think for Formula One and all the teams involved, the mechanics, the engineers, the team principals - it's been a very busy weekend trying to work out what's been going on with the regulations. It's been cleared up now which is good to see at least. Today wasn't the best day for our team, we didn't qualify where we would have expected. My position isn't so bad, but it's obviously the gap to the cars in front which is a lot bigger than what I expected."