Silverstone: Going into its home race still struggling to overcome the myriad of problems with its Formula One car, McLaren knows that the 2013 season is practically out of reach and is looking ahead to 2014. Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh told The Associated Press on Friday that it has been a season filled with disappointment for one of the sport's marquee franchises and that he was not expecting much from this weekend's British Grand Prix - a race that draws huge numbers of fans to see Jenson Button and other British drivers race.
"There are a lot of fans here, loyal fans. They understand you have ups and down," Whitmarsh said. "You don't want to let them down. We will be doing everything we can to fight tomorrow and the next day. But we're probably not going give them result that they want and we would want to give them."
Accustomed to competing for the drivers' championship, the 2009 champion Button and newcomer Sergio Perez have yet to clinch a podium finish this season. There are few signs that changes the team made ahead of the Spanish GP helped close the gap on the Red Bulls and Ferraris. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton, who left McLaren for Mercedes in the offseason, has had several podiums and is in the hunt for the drivers' championship.
The team struggled again Friday with Button finishing 11th fastest in Friday practice and Perez 14th. "The gap to the front runners is still substantial," said Perez, who moved over from Sauber to replace Hamilton. "We've tried some new bits that are not working as planned so I would assume that we are in a similar position as we were in Montreal," he said. "I think pace-wise we are still way off the usual McLaren speed. We do take a lot of risks in terms of development, and we also make some tough decisions in regards to progress - all in the hope of turning things around soon."
Among those tough decisions, Whitmarsh said, is shifting "quite a lot of resources" to the 2014 car at the expense of this year's MP4-28, which he called a "pragmatic decision." "It's been a poor season. There has been no simple fix," Whitmarsh said. "The fact is we have a car that is some ways behind the development cycle of the other cars now. We have to be realistic about that. We are going to fight on but we have to work very hard on next year to make sure we come out competitive."
Despite its recent setbacks, Whitmarsh was upbeat about the team's future. The team recently announced it had inked a deal with Honda to supply it with engines starting in 2015 - reviving a partnership that helped the team win four consecutive drivers' and constructors' titles between 1988 and 1991.
On Friday, the team also said that Sauber's chief design engineer Matt Morris will join McLaren after his current contractual situation with Sauber is resolved. Morris will work for the team's technical director, Tim Goss, to strengthen the engineering standards and technical decision-making capabilities of the team.