I was just reading some analysis by Mark Hughes (Sky), and he raised some very interesting points regarding Mclaren’s current performance level. The thing that really caught my attention was this;
“But a comparison of Hamilton’s speed on his prime tyres – like those used by Alonso to lead throughout his first stint – as the others pitted ahead of him and left him in clear air is illuminating. From laps 14 through to 17 he was consistently lapping in the low-mid 1m 38s, with a best of 1m 38.3s. This was directly comparable with Alonso’s pace on the same tyre before he’d pitted – and Lewis’ best lap was actually a couple of tenths faster. There are complicating fuel load and tyre deg factors making exact comparison impossible, but as a generality the McLaren’s potential pace in that first stint was as good as the race-leading Ferrari’s; it’s just that its poor starting position had put it in a queue where that couldn’t be demonstrated”
I think the Mclaren is a very high downforce package, but they are struggling with tyres which prohibits them from running the pace the cars capable of. As Jonathan Neale said, throughout practice and particularly in Q2, on the full wets the Mclaren was able to “switch” the tyres on quicker than most and Hamilton was the fastest man on full wets, and this can’t be done without substantial downforce. Also to support this, Mark Hughes’s analysis suggests in the 1st stint, the Mclaren got its tyres working, and Hamilton was running on the pace of Alonso, but dropped in the finalb two stints due to struggling with tyres.
Overall, i think Mclaren shoud concentrate on understanding the tyres as the car clearly has the pace, but is very sensitive when getting the tyres to work is concerned.
An interesting article from Mark Hughes, but if his proposition that the McLaren is a more ‘knife-edge’ car, being more sensitive than its rivals to track temperature, circuit characteristics, etc., then the McLaren can still be classified as slow, at least if you look at average performances, which include not always getting the car and tyres in their optimum window. Coupled with the fact that Red Bull and Ferrari are now pretty strong all-rounders, it looks like McLaren are going to have a tough time regaining any of the lost ground in the championships.
It’s not too late for McLaren to turn it around, but it will be soon. I think the drivers’ championship is going to remain close for a long time yet, which gives them a little breathing space. If any one driver had managed to put a string of wins together then the deficit might already be too great. Also helping them is also the fact that the next two races might suit them somewhat better than the previous ones.
I wish I could comment on why McLaren have lost so much ground to other teams since the start of the season, which is what this thread seems to be about, but I’m not technical enough so I’d just be guessing. The tyres sound like the most convincing explanation to me though.