Nelson Piquet’s attack on Flavio Briatore for not giving him and Fernando Alonso equal equipment has once again cast a spotlight on how teams treat their drivers.
McLaren’s policy of driver equality was a subject of furious debate during the 2007 season (not least on this site), when Alonso and Lewis Hamilton fell out spectacularly.
Martin Whitmarsh insists that, despite Lewis Hamilton getting a major upgrade for the MP4-24 one race before Heikki Kovalainen this year, he wants to avoid similar situations in future and give his drivers the same equipment.
Speaking in a media briefing he said:
As a matter of policy we do everything we can possibly to avoid giving different equipment and opportunity to our drivers. It well publicised we don’t operate a number one driver status.
We had an occasion in Germany which was the worst time in which we’ve provided different equipment in my 20 years at McLaren. It felt deeply uncomfortable. But at the time I had pushed on our organisation very hard to bring something forward after Silverstone and the pain we felt with our result there.
Effectively we were delivering parts to the circuit and building cars on Friday morning. I found it an uncomfortable process to not give drivers equal equipment. Given where we were it was a justifiable decision – but I have to say that because it was mine!
Without track testing between races we need to use practice one and practice two as part of our development process. So we used different parts on each car in those sessions. By practice two each car had converged on same specification of front wing and rear floor.
In order to do that we have to make a relatively large number of parts. We’re more cost conscious now than we’ve ever been. We don’t make parts now unless we’ve got a reasonable expectation of improvement.
Other teams have historically run much more different cars across the garage than we have. Based on that one extreme experience in Germany I don’t like it and we will always try to provide equal equipment in future.