Whitmarsh wants Hamilton and Kovalainen to have equal equipment

Hamilton had McLaren's upgrade one race before Kovalainen

Hamilton had McLaren's upgrade one race before Kovalainen

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.
Martin Whitmarsh

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66 comments on Whitmarsh wants Hamilton and Kovalainen to have equal equipment

  1. One has to wonder why McLaren have to publicly attempt to prove that they don’t have number one and number two drivers, when other teams like Red Bull just get on with it.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th August 2009, 14:08

      This wasn’t unprompted, it was a response to a question about driver equality.

      • Which sort of proves my point, Keith. Of the teams that profess to treat their drivers equally, McLaren always has the most trouble convincing people that they’re telling the truth about it.

        • patrickl said on 19th August 2009, 14:41

          The reason they have so much trouble with it was that no one can believe that Hamilton as a rookie was just as good as Alonso and than now he’s destroying Heiki.

          Some people just can’t accept the fact that some drivers are simply a whole lot better than others.

          Same with Alonso vs Piquet and Rosberg vs Nakajima.

          • But Coulthard and Montoya also complained about unequal treatment at McLaren, alongside Hakkinen and Raikkonen respectively. So it’s not just an Alonso-era phenomenon.

          • patrickl said on 19th August 2009, 15:09

            No they didn’t

          • They both complained, but more about personal or ‘emotional’ support from team management than equipment i.e. The other drivers being more favoured.

        • Sush Meerkat said on 19th August 2009, 19:31

          Which sort of proves my point, Keith. Of the teams that profess to treat their drivers equally, McLaren always has the most trouble convincing people that they’re telling the truth about it.

          Exactly, well said Red Andy, they bang that drum all the time.

          Surely with a 4 million pound upgrade package like they flaunted they shouldn’t have given Heikki the same gear?.

          I personally hate Ron Dennis, and i’m no big fan of Mclaren, so I’d pull them up myself if I was there.

          I do like Whitmarsh though, he has an honest quality to him somehow, I can’t pinpoint it, but he’s likeable.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th August 2009, 21:56

          OK, so what is it about his answer that’s unconvincing?

          • Sush Meerkat said on 20th August 2009, 8:30

            OK, so what is it about his answer that’s unconvincing?

            Because of the bragging rights they had with spending 4 million quid on an upgrade package that worked well enough to win, but it was only given to one driver.

            Its like they spent 4 million just for Hamilton.

    • Hakka said on 19th August 2009, 14:12

      Great blog, by the way. Love it!

      When I first discovered your site, as I was going through your archives, I realized I had seen one of your articles (Autosport & Wednesdays) at the top of Google News for some legitimate search result!

    • S Hughes said on 19th August 2009, 15:34

      Because so many Lewis haters get hot under the collar at the thought of him getting any advantage, whereas no-one gives a stuff if any other team is unequal [see Piquet and Renault].

      • Jay Menon said on 20th August 2009, 1:38

        This is a debate thats been going on for years..stretches way back to the Hakkinen Couthard years.

        You guys watched Louise Goodman’s ITV interviews with DC last year, he mentioned in one session about how he understands what Alonso went through at Mclaren, He clearly stated that you would not understand it unless you’ve been in it.

        I agree that Mclaren has the most trouble in convincing the world they treat drivers equally..because they dont! This has got nothing to do with Lewis Hamilton being a black rookie who has the world against him or Heikki Kovalainen being slow moving Finn..its just the Mclaren way.

  2. Hakka said on 19th August 2009, 14:06

    Whitmarsh comes across as a straight shooter. I think it’s a pretty noble goal to have a publicly stated equal-treatment policy and doing your best to stick to it.

    The question is whether car development will proceed in a direction that favors one driver over another or not. This is something that cannot really be avoided. If one driver starts getting strong results from a specific update, it will be very difficult for the designers and engineers to backtrack and make major adjustments to even things out. Wonder how they’ll address that issue.

  3. Damon said on 19th August 2009, 14:11

    Keith, haven’t you heard the news yet that BWM want to stay in F1 after all??
    Article worthy :)

    • Chris said on 19th August 2009, 14:27

      Pardon?

    • patrickl said on 19th August 2009, 14:41

      They simply want to make sure they can sell the team. Without a slot, no one is going to buy the team.

      • Without a slot, no one is going to buy the team.

        what do u mean with this? what is a slot?
        srry I understand most english and so but maybe I don’t know enough about all the rules to understand this…

        • Patrickl said on 19th August 2009, 19:29

          I meant that they to be on the entry list. As it is now the team will be scrapped from the entry list.

          It will be impossible to sell an F1 team that doesn’t have the right to enter in a F1 race.

    • Lustigson said on 19th August 2009, 18:31

      Then the dumbasses should’ve signed the Concord Agreement.

  4. Kutigz said on 19th August 2009, 15:07

    No.1 driver or not…its simply not earthly possible to love or treat two persons at equal levels! ‘Cos no matter the balance, there’ll always be an ‘unconscious’ lean!
    What say u?

  5. Alex Bkk said on 19th August 2009, 15:13

    Well…why were the new additions given to Ham and not kovi…They are equal after all.

    Cheers, Alex

    • Hakka said on 19th August 2009, 15:47

      Come to think of it, you’re right. That would have silenced the doubters once for all, and would have sent a clear message to all aspiring McLaren drivers of the future that they walk the walk.

      But they didn’t. If there’s another instance of this, and they don’t give it to Kovi …

      • Alex20 said on 19th August 2009, 16:21

        The reason behind why Hamilton got the “upgrade” first is because with the in-season testing ban, factories from all teams have to put them on the cars at gps. There is no point in manufactoring 2 of the same component when one will suffice as to get data/driver feed back.

        And i put it to you, wouldn’t you put the better driver onto the case to test out the new and untested component, so you can get the most of of it as posible?

        • Hakka said on 19th August 2009, 16:40

          Whitmarsh is saying (I think) that both drivers, irrespective of who is, or is doing, “better” will get the same equipment at each race.

          There are certainly production and deadline issues that may mean only one part gets manufactured for a weekend. When this happens, if McLaren are true to their pledge, drivers would alternate getting unique upgrades over weekends. So it would be Kovi’s turn if once again there’s only one part for a weekend.

          I totally agree that it’s a rational move for McLaren to give the part to Lewis first, premised on Lewis being better than Kovi.

          But Whitmarsh seems to be saying that they won’t be partial to any driver even if he is “better” (for some definition of “better”). If he’s not saying this, what’s he saying?

          • Hi Hakka, nice to see you around this blog.

            What I think McLaren is doing wrongly in trying to stick in “absolute equal treatment” when in fact is just an almost-impossible goal to achieve.

            There will always be a best pit stop strategy, new parts to test, better days for testing… and teams will have to decide who driver is going to take it.

            And I think there is nothing wrong in giving those small advantages to the driver who has better chances to achieve better results, or have more experience and skills to give the team better input.

            The problem would come if those small advantages always go to the same driver, when the Team is proclaiming they give “absolute equal treatment” to their drivers.

    • Nefer said on 20th August 2009, 13:59

      Well…why were the new additions given to Ham and not kovi…They are equal after all.

      If you read the media briefing by Martin Whitmarsh, you wouldn’t need to ask this pointless question.

      And are they really equal? I would propose not. Apart from Germany, those two have had the same race package… how often do we see Heiki in front of Hamilton? And what about last year? They are clearly NOT equal, but have equal rights to equipment of course. But again, read Martin Whitmarshes media briefing for a very sound explanation.

      There are too many people in the world who’d rather just flame the successful without any thought, instead of putting themselves into those shoes for a minute or two and having a proper think about things.

  6. Red Andy, yes it’s not an Alonso-era phenomenon, IMO rather a phenomenon created by sore losers, pretty much the same thing when Barrichello was seriously complaining: “The team made me lose the race”.

    There are hard facts that can prove McLaren treat their drivers equally, Coulthard for example, won the 99′ Belgium GP, 10sec ahead of Hakkinen, where Hakkinen was fighting with Irine for the WDC(2 pts behind Irine). In the end Hakkinen won it by 2 point. It’s always difficult to convince people when they simply chose to ignore the facts and insist on what they want to believe.

  7. S Hughes said on 19th August 2009, 15:32

    I thought they always did have equal equipment except the one weekend in Germany when they couldn’t fly out upgrades for both cars fast enough. I wonder at this headline.

  8. mp4-19b said on 19th August 2009, 15:53

    here are a few stats that would silence a few mouths:

    1)mclaren-mercedes(1996-2001) during mika & david era

    mika hakkinen: total wins=20
    david coulthard: total wins=11

    2) mclaren-mercedes(2002-2004) kimi & dc era

    david coulthard :total wins=2
    kimi raikkonen :total wins=2

    3)mclaren-mercedes(2005-2006) kimi jpm era(no wins in 06 & jmp chickened out midway)

    kimi raikkonen :total wins=7
    pablo montoya : total wins=3

    now compare the above stats with this one below

    1)Ferrari(1996-1999) schumacher-irvine era

    schumacher:total wins=15
    irvine:total wins=2 (not included wins in austria &
    germany cuz shoe had a broken leg)

    2)ferrari(2000-2005) schumacher-barrichello
    schumacher:total wins= 56
    barrichello: total wins=9

    3)ferrari(2006) schumacher-massa era
    schumacher:total wins= 7
    massa: total wins = 2

    do i need to say anymore ??

    i’ve not included the days of senna-prost, those stats would put to rest all this nonsense about mclaren favoring one driver over the other.

    • Wateva said on 19th August 2009, 16:30

      I dont think ur comparison is just. I think all your comparison shows is McLaren has taken in two very good drivers on more occasions than any other team. Whereas teams like Ferrari prefer one good driver and one a bit off. No matter how much noise Irvine made, Schumacher was way superior than him, and again Schumacher was better than both Barichello and Massa.

      But this feeling of driver inequality has cropped up more in the McLaren camp than any other. Y take two good drivers if you cant manage it.

    • Striay said on 19th August 2009, 21:02

      That proves that Kimi is a better driver :)

  9. GeeMac said on 19th August 2009, 16:01

    Are you sure those stats?

    DC won a total of 13 GP’s in his career, and at least one of those was with Williams.

    • GeeMac said on 19th August 2009, 16:02

      I mean “Are you sure about those stats?”

      :-)

      • mp4-19b said on 19th August 2009, 16:13

        the 3 victories scored by coulthard in the absence of hakkinen as his team mate was:

        1) 1995 Portuguese gp (williams-renault)
        2) 2002 Monaco gp (mclaren)
        3) 2003 Aussie gp (mclaren)

        so, it makes it 10 gp with mika as his team mate.

  10. Some days ago Oliver explained why is hard sometime to provide the drivers with the same equipment:

    Designing new parts is the easiest part of the equation. MANUFACTURING those new parts is where the problem exists in. Carbon fiber needs to go into autoclaves and pressure chambers and blah blah. A single component may need about a week or 3weeks to manufacture. If they are using a scaled wind tunnel, they then have to redo the part at full scale. Then it has to be verified, on track to ensure the new part corroborates with the figures they got in the wind tunnel. If it doesn’t work, they chuck it. There is no point and no time in making 2 identical parts that might end up being discarded immediately.
    If they were parts to improve reliability, the engineers will know of the existing problem and design a fix that might work better than before, but not necessarily with the optimum reliability. However, they will certainly know the new part will be better than the old, so they can make for both cars immediately. In the case of parts for performance, these are parts that probably change very often, the engineers are groping in the dark, they have ideas but not all the answers, if they had all the answers, they will design a car that will not need any updates.

  11. mp4-19b said on 19th August 2009, 16:27

    If there is one team that treats its drivers with equality, it has to be mclaren. if i’m right alonso never accused mclaren of providing him with inferior machinery, it was the uncivilized spanish media that blew things out of proportion. in fact mclaren had to design & manufacture an unique braking system for monza, just for alonso, he eventually went on to win the race. this was at a time when ron & alonso weren’t seeing eye to eye.i find it very amusing when people start ranting about alonso & 2007. people have to accept that alonso got beaten by a better driver in an equal equipment in 2007. thats the fact.

    • GeeMac said on 19th August 2009, 16:28

      Well said…

      • Gazza said on 19th August 2009, 17:03

        I think most of you are somewhat missing the main point around why most F1 drivers complain about driver inequality. The main complaint comes when the driver is not able to choose or have the optimum strategy for the race. I think if you go back and look at the facts of 2007 with Alonso and Mclaren, you will see that Alonso very seldom was given the optimum strategy. Added to that he was not even involved on which strategy was chosen for him and why. Added to that it was clear from the beginning that Ron Dennis favoured Lewis.
        That in essence is when drivers complain about inequality; inequality if optimum strategy and senior management bias to a driver.

        • Added to that it was clear from the beginning that Ron Dennis favoured Lewis.

          I think I watched another season, indeed…

          Since the beginning Ron has given Fernando the optimal strategy and you can see HERE on Keith’s report about the first race but I have an excerpt for you to remember in details what happened in the beginning of 2007:

          Qualifying for the first race in Melbourne set the tone for the season. Lewis Hamilton was two tenths of a second faster than Fernando Alonso in the first part. He repeated it in the second part until Alonso, oddly, chose to do an extra lap, which proved quick enough to put him ahead of his team mate.

          He cemented that position in the final part of qualifying by taking second, Hamilton (carrying more fuel) fourth behind Nick Heidfeld. But at the start of the race Alonso received the clear message that his new team mate would be no push over.

          Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica, Melbourne, 2007Neither McLaren started well from the dirty side of the grid and Heidfeld passed Alonso just as Robert Kubica took Hamilton. But the Briton fought back, not only passing Kubica around the outside of the first corner, but Alonso as well.

          Hamilton demonstrated an extraordinary capacity for perfectly judging his braking point for the first corner of a race which we would see again at Sepang, the Nurburgring and Monza. But although he led Alonso at the start, the Spaniard was ahead by the end of the race.

          In the light of what happened later it’s ironic to remember that Hamilton inadvertently helped Alonso win the Malaysian Grand Prix. Another stunning start carried him past both Ferraris, and millimetre-perfect defensive driving duped Felipe Massa into a mistake for which the Ferrari driver was justifiably pilloried.

          Hamilton kept Raikkonen tucked up while Alonso scampered off to head a McLaren one-two, the Spanish driver taking the championship lead.

          KEITH´S QUALIFYING REPORT
          KEITH´S RACE REPORT

          • BECKEN

            I have had a look at the FIA Statistics for 2007 Melbourne GP and this is the available data:

            Q2: F Alonso 85,326 Secs. L Hamilton 85,577 Secs. Fernando Alonso was 0,251 Secs Faster than Hamilton.

            Q3: F Alonso 86,608 Secs. L Hamilton 86,766 Secs. Fernando was 0,147 Secs faster than Hamilton

            Both drivers made 10 Laps in Q3 (According to FIA)

            First Pit Stop: F Alonso 22 Laps L Hamilton 23 Laps. So L Hamilton had in Q3 fuel for 1 more lap than Fernando.

            The efect of 1 more lap of fuel for Melbourne is 0,115 Secs, so, at the end, Fernando Alonso was FASTER than Lewis Hamilton in Q2 and Q3 (fuel corrected).

            I totally agree with you and Keith about the outstanding performance of Lewis Hamilton keeping in mind that was his first race in Formula one, but the facts do not match your comments and Keith report you have quoted here.

          • An error in the data:

            Q3: F Alonso 86,493 L Hamilton 86,755 F Alonso 0,262 Secs Faster

            Q3 (Fuel corrected): F Alonso 86,608 L Hamilton 86,755 / F Alonso 0,147 Faster than L Hamilton.

          • Hi IDR

            The point here is about “optimum strategy” and we can see in other report, written by Mark Hughes, how McLaren worked to ensure that Alonso would be have the best one to beat Lewis in Melbourne/2007:

            “He totally underestimated Hamilton at the start. This lasted into the first three races. This lack of respect for Hamilton’s level made it extra difficult to accept when the rookie rivalled his speed – as he did immediately. When Alonso had to sacrifice a set of new tyres by making a second run in Q2 in Melbourne in order to beat Hamilton’s time and thereby ensure strategic preference in the race, he was irritated he’d had to do so. He was the double champion, the team should be ensuring they beat all the others by backing him, their best bet. Now he’d wasted a valuable bit of ammunition just to see off his team-mate.

            — MARK HUGHES in Autosport”

          • Hi BECKEN

            What figures says is F Alonso was faster in Q3 than L Hamilton, fuel corrected or not, despite he had to make an extra stint in Q2 to beat him.

            When you talk about “optimum strategy” I assume you are talking about “optimun race strategy”, so I cannot see how to have an extra-stint in Q2 was going to give an optimum race strategy to F Alonso.

            As the above figures show, F Alonso win Q3 fair and square, corrected or not fuel corrected.

            The rest are just opinions about how F Alonso felt or behaved…

            Anyway, I agree with Mark Huges (and you) that, probably, Alonso (and McLaren -IMHO), underestimated Hamilton at the start of the season.

          • With all respect, IDR, but let be honest, those figures are surmises.

            How do you know how much fuel Lewis and Fernando had on board in the start of the race or after his first pit stop to adjust their times? You don´t know and there something missing in you figures, that is the second pit stop when even with much more fuel than Fernando (considering you figures!) Lewis stopped two laps earlier than him.

            This second pit stop shows how Mclaren beaten Lewis on that Sunday…

          • BECKEN,

            First of all, sorry for my short knowledge of English. I’m afraid there is something I’m not explaining well, when I read your answers,

            I will try againg despite is going to be a long way for me…

            How do I make fuel corrected timing?

            According to 2007 regulations, all cars where refueled after qualifying session with the fuel burned during Q3. For this reason, if you want to make any fuel correction you need to take in consideration how many laps driver did during Q3.

            For that case, both drivers made 10 laps each, so, there was not any difference.

            So I take the number of laps each driver made before their first pit stop, just to know how many fuel (in term of number of laps) each driver had when they were making Q3.

            It’s not important to know how many fuel each driver had, it’s important to know the difference between both drivers.

            So, for this case, L Hamilton was carrying fuel for 1 Lap more than F Alonso.

            So my point was during Q3, F Alonso’s time was made with fuel for 1 Lap less than L Hamilton.

            And this calculations are based on the available facts given the statistics reported by FIA.

            I have not added any other kind of considerations. Maybe you think the team asked L Hamilton to pit earlier during his first pit stop, so my calculations should be wrong.

            But, with all my respect, that should be surmises, as well as your comment about the second pit stop, in wich the team put more fuel in L Hamilton car and called him earlier than needed.

            You cannot make that assumptions with available data.

            In any case, I’m sure I’m not explaining myself very well, because I cannot understand how can you infer any fuel strategy for the second pit stop taking my figures!!!

            I hope I’ve been clear enough to explain what I’m trying to say…

    • Austin said on 19th August 2009, 17:30

      Your right about Alonso, he has said recently he rates Hamilton highly and is one of 2 drivers he’s raced against that’s hard to beat, the other was Schuey.

  12. Austin said on 19th August 2009, 17:38

    Well talking about equal equipment, Mclaren’s cars are getting new parts for this weekend. A new front wing and rear floor. They are are to try the front wing on 1 car and the new floor on the other. This is what he said

    “Team principal Martin Whitmarsh revealed on Wednesday that improvements brought to the car would be tried out separately by Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen in first practice for the European GP.

    “This coming weekend we have a new front wing system for the car to hopefully bring some more performance,” said Whitmarsh during a ‘Phone-in’ media call on Wednesday.

    “You will see that will be on one car in P1, with the new rear floor on the other car in P1…we need to back-to-back the new front wing and rear floor modifications, so by P2 both cars will have converged on the same specification.”
    LINK

    I think Mclaren will do well again this weekend.

  13. Manny said on 19th August 2009, 17:42

    Keith I’d just thought i’d tell you that the 2010 F1 technical&sporting regulations have been published by the FIA on their website. Refuelling is banned, KERS is till permitted, tyre blankets are still permitted, low fuel qualy is back and the minimum weight is now 620kg.

  14. mp4-19b said on 19th August 2009, 19:08

    if this doesn’t wake up kovy, i dunno what will :(

    http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2009/8/9758.html

    • MacademiaNut said on 20th August 2009, 6:23

      It’s high time someone finally gave him the hint. :) He has managed to be a complete non-story. He had a lucky Hungaroring win last year – thanks to Massa’s engine failure. Otherwise, this guy doesn’t have the guts to win a race.

  15. Prisoner Monkeys said on 19th August 2009, 19:42

    It doesn’t surprise me too much that teams are giving one driver different parts to another. Because of the in-season testing ban, there’s no way for a team to develop new parts the way they normally would. So their only real option – espeically if they’re at the middle to back the way McLaren and Renault have been – is to test over the course of a weekend. Of course, they can’t rightly stick equal parts on both cars, because then you get something of a Brawn situation: the developments harm more than the help.

    It’s a blind scientific test, sticking new parts on one car and runing them against a car with the old kit. It’s designed to test the new stuff against the old, to make sure it actually does what it’s supposed to. Once they’re on to a good thing – the way McLaren are now – I wholly expect both drivers will get equal parts. In the case of Renault, they’re still not where they want to be. And because Grosjean may take a few races to break himself in a little, Renault could very well continue the tend of mismatched car parts for testing purposes. The problem with that is working out whether the difference in lap times is coming from the new parts on Alonso’s car or from Grosjean’s inexpeirence in Formula One …

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