McLaren: 2013 Flop of the Year

Mechanics work on Sergio's car

At the end of 2012 McLaren decided to bin their impressive MP4-27 which had won the last two races of the year. The team then proceeded to build the MP4-28, essentially from scratch and thereafter persist with it when clearly it was a miserable piece of kit. Quite simply put, whomever was responsible for those decisions should have been dismissed.

Harsh perhaps, but that is the reality of the enormity of the team’s failings in 2013. Had it been McLaren Football Club the manager would have been long gone, and his backroom staff too…

Jenson Button should have known better when he predicted after Jerez testing, “This year’s car is the best we’ve ever made – I know the engineers have left absolutely no stone unturned in wringing every ounce of performance from every available area.”

Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday 23 November 2013.

A month later he trumpeted, “In terms of the car itself – the MP4-28 – it’s very good. We have had a few issues which have set us back a little bit, but I feel that the car in Melbourne will be strong.”

How wrong he was. He must thus shoulder some of the blame for making all the wrong noises, encouraging his team to persevere with a car that never looked anything like it’s predecessor, or even came close for that matter.

Perhaps unrelated to their slump, they also lost Paddy Lowe to Mercedes. Thus Sam Michael, whose effectiveness is questioned by some paddock insiders, inherited more power within the Woking outfit. Sources at the team have revealed (off the record) that Michael’s abrasive attitude did not help McLaren in their attempt to keep Lewis Hamilton from moving to Mercedes. The 2008 World Champion was also no fan of the Australian.


Famously, Michael had Hamilton physically removed from the McLaren garage, when their former driver came in to greet his ex-colleagues, at the start of testing in Jerez.

With McLaren F1 team management under pressure to perform and in the end not delivering, they found themselves a scapegoat in Sergio Perez, whom they sent packing despite the Mexican actually doing relatively well for the team at a time when they provided him (and Button) with abysmal tools to do their jobs.

And adding insult to injury they grovelled apologetically for firing Perez, while triumphantly heralding the arrival of Kevin Magnussen, as if this unknown quantity is to be their saviour. It all stank of a huge cover-up by those who should really have been axed – the senior managers.

Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday 23 November 2013.

Little wonder then that Ron Dennis is ‘upset’ with those who currently run the team which he built. Good on him if he sweeps clean the rot that has set in and takes over, because they can ill afford another year of wretched midfield struggles ahead of their reunification with Honda in 2015.

McLaren seem to have forgotten that they are like Ferrari, an iconic Formula 1 racing team with a huge and proud history in the sport. They have a huge following of dedicated fans and a legacy of note. For these reasons alone they have a responsibility to deliver at the very highest level, all of the time. That Force India at one stage considered them a target in the Championship battle, borders on sacrilege and speaks only too loudly of the Woking outfit’s failings.

No doubt, 2013 was a flop for McLaren. They know it, their fans know it and we know it too.

Subbed by AJN.

  • Mclaren_Mircea

    You dont’s see that comparet to others teams at the begining of the year, Mclaren progressed much more than Ferrari. Ferrari started with the best car in race conditions, and ended with the fourth car as performance. Everything they put on the car didn’t worked. A very good car slowly decline and by mid season they were behind Lotus and Mercedes as car performance. That is something really worry. The wind tunnel it’s not an excuse because during the winter they developed a good car in their tunnel, and Toyota’s wind tunnel is one of the best, the is the proof that last year’s Mclaren was born and developed in Toyota’s wind tunnel. Ferrari problems are much more deeper.
    Mclaren made a mistake with the pull rod, high nose etc, it’s something managerial, but let’s reminder thant in Australia they were behing Force India, Torro Rosso and maybe even Sauber as car performance. But while Ferrari were falling behind, Mclaren started to make small steps ahead. By late june, after the disaster in Canda, they swithced all their efforts for 2014. By the Silverstone Young Drivers Test, they were already testing 2014 parts. And even, with all this resourse for 2014, the small parts they put on the car in Hungary and in september-october, without testing them in the wind tunnel were working. Ok, they could not transform the car into a winner like 2009, because Mclaren switched ALL THEIR EFFORTS toward 2014, and that was much earlier than Ferrari and Mercedes. All the teams started to work on 2014 car by 2012-2011, but Mclaren it’s the first team that switched ALL THE EFFORTS FOR 2014.
    Remember than in all this time, Ferrari brought contant updated to the car race by race, and all of them were = 0.
    The little resources that remained for this years’s car were much more effective than the large partsFerrari were trying desperately to close the gap tu Red Bull and fight with Mercedes for 2 place in the constructors. It’s much more annoying that a car that was 1 in race and 2 in qualifyng at the begining of the season to finish the second as the fourth fastest car, than a car that could not enter top 10 in Q3 and finish as the fifth car as performance. If Mclaren would have have started with a good car like Ferrari, surely they would not been overtaken by Lotus and Mercedes (and not by the fact that Alonso took a lot of points, but by the car’s pure performance).

  • Jules

    McL is indeed the biggest flop this year. For a supposed Tier 1 team to perform like a bottom mid tier team is pathetic. Some heads have to roll at McL.

    McL hired a rookie instead of Nico Hulkenberg. McL keeps Button who is more a PR guy than a racer. McL seems lost at the moment…and is sad that they could not even keep up with a Lotus! They seem to even have lost ground to Force India!!!

  • vincent

    hat off to the author the most honest critique i have read about mclaren this year, no dinner invite in brazil next year though.

  • WestMclarenMercedes

    Agreed. Whos fault is it? Its freaking martin and sam’s fault. Ron should have never stepped down and should have left adrian newey have more freedom in designing the car. He would have not gone to red bull if given more freedom. Firing sergio is their scapegoat to their performance this year. Jenson needs to be a racer and not a PR addict. Kimi has more fans than him and is bad with PR for crying out loud. Sack whitmarsh, button and michael for saying the mp4-28 was a good car. And not even wanting to sign Nico Hulkenberg!?! WTF!! There is a big cover up going on and i dont think magnussen is the solution. He like his father will be known as the most disorganized driver to race in F1 period. But not signing Nico! Showing very little ineterst in even nico tells you something is up. I hope Mclaren gets overtaken by Force India next year as they signed Nico and Sergio. Two racers not PR guys. They need a car like the MP4-20, 23 and 27. But very dissapointed McLaren Fan here alright. Can image what Bruce would have said to whitmarsh and michael. Two idiots of the paddock. Sam micheal killed williams and now hes after McLaren. If Mclaren wants to repeat 1988 in 2015 sack martin and Sam. Get Adrian back and hire 2 actual racers for crying out loud. Sack those 2 wankers atleast!

  • Jules

    Here’s my idea. Replace MW with Brawn.

  • Honokaa Chuck

    I don’t hold Jensen Button responsible at all for McLaren’s problems in designing a car. We know he is trying to finish his career with McLaren, and we also know how well drivers fare who criticise their car, and especial senior management in their teams… So, I would relegate criticising Jenson Button in this case as irrelevant to the real issue.

    As to Martin Whitmarsh and Sam Micheal, now we are getting to the real problem… There has been a declining trend in play since Martin Whitmarsh took control of the team and that is hard to deny by any measure!

  • AFA

    The problem with McLaren is Martin Whitmarsh! Since he took over from Dennis, McLaren has been losing top personnel, picking ridiculous drivers and hiring people that have totally failed to do anything respectable when employed by other teams. Yes, I am talking about Sam Michael!!

    In F1 you either need to be a Ron Dennis or a Christian Horner. Both are leaders but have a different style. Dennis is an authoritative figure that runs a team a bit like a “dictator” runs his country and Horner is the good guy that manages to be a great team leader who tries to let down no one while not being an arse. AND then there’s Ross Brawn, who can do both and is the greatest example of how an F1 team principal needs to be!

  • Zombie Jebus will eat your brain and take your knowledge

    If Bruce were alive he’d be sick when he saw what Dennis has made of his team…

    but here are two words that really explain the fall from grace: Sam Michael.

  • A41202813GMAIL

    Do Not Worry, Guys, LEWIS Will Be Back By 2017 Or 2018.

    But Only After Going RED For 1 Year Or 2, That Is.

    Go, HAMILTON !

  • Red Bull Cheats

    Haaaa Ron Denis you laughed at Lewis for wanting EQUAL pay to Jenson and wanting his trophies. If he had stayed at McLaren he would have no trophies. Instead he has MORE money, MORE time, ACTUAL trophies and a team that recognizes his desire to race and win. And he gets to grow a beard. Awesome.

  • A41202813GMAIL

    @Red Bull Cheats

    Remember 2009 ?

    I Bet If He Had Stayed, By The Second Half Of The Season, He Could Have Won More Than His Single Race Win In HUNGARY.

    Go, HAMILTON !

  • Fletcher

    Amen to the article. Every word of it is true. Hopefully Ron comes back in time for Honda cause MW and SM are really useless and Sam Micheal using Sergio Perez as a scapegoat so as not to draw attention to himself. If Magnussen doesn’t perform well, I am sure both will be axed. I am really hoping Force India finishes ahead of them in the Constructors Championship. That would be sweet

  • David

    There is a lot of sense from posted comments. McLaren is my local team and it’s painful to see their decline. Ron Dennis is shrewd enough to see the problems so I can’t understand why he’s not taken any action (that’s public knowledge) so far. If Red Bull aren’t taken down a peg or two very soon, the whole of F1 will suffer even more than it has under its current rulers. By “suffer” I mean in its importance to true fans, not its Balance Sheet!

  • StevetheGreat

    Pirelli are the flop of the year. Again.

  • Red Bull Cheats

    Button said that he had wrapped the team around him, the car was built for him and it was the best McLaren he had ever driven. That was his preseason talk. Now what does no grip have to say?

  • Tinto

    McLaren is coming back, they learned their lesson. With one condition: a new management.

  • Mr Hoy

    No one can stay on top yr after yr just ask Williams.

    You think the MP28 was crap well the MP18 would make it look like a world beater.
    I can’t see next yr being all that better then this.
    2015 should the start of an upward move as long as Honda come up with a good engine.