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Under-fire Whitmarsh soaks up blame for MP4-28
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has admitted his team took too long to realise the mistakes it made with the MP4-28 and says he takes responsibility for the predicament it now faces.
McLaren got its season off to a poor start in Australia, scoring just two points while the car was well over a second off the pace of its rivals. The team has taken a revolutionary approach with its 2013 car in the hope that it would have more development potential than an evolution of last year's race winning MP4-27, but Whitmarsh conceded the team should have seen the problems developing earlier.
"Clearly we didn't do a good enough job and there is a lot of analysis of that going on at the moment," he said. "That is by no means an excuse but decisions were taken in about August time last year to take some risks in the concept of this year's car and when you take those decisions you do it with the intention of giving yourself a car that you hope is going to be competitive at the start and gives you the potential to develop it over the course of the season.
"I think we lost our way in the development of this car and Formula One is a relentless and unforgiving environment for mistakes, be it those that you make at the track or those that you make before you come to the track. We took too long to realise that and we are responding now. Last weekend was incredibly difficult for the team and we were very fortunate that the team stuck together and stayed focused through that.
"People expect us to be at the front and we expect to be at the front and every time the car left the garage since we've been here it's been an experiment in progress. The car has got a long way to go and it's clearly a long way from where it should be even now. But I think the encouraging sign is that we have made some small incremental improvements, but more important that those small incremental improvements is that they have given us a good steer and good direction.
"We know the car is far from optimised but it has responded to some of those changes that we were making as late as Saturday morning and that will go back into the team to give them the fresh impetus to improve the car before we go to China."
Pushed on whether he accepts responsibility for the decision to take a risk last August, Whitmarsh said: "It wasn't my decision. But am I responsible for what this team does? Yes. But I don't make all the decisions that sit in it, buy you can't sit in the position of team principal of McLaren and not accept responsibility.
"When the car is not successful a lot of it inevitably gets focused on me and when the car is successful there is credit elsewhere normally, but that's the job and I'm relaxed about that. I've been around long enough and personally involved in over 100 grand prix victories so know what it's like to win - and that's good fun - and I also know what it's like to not do a good enough job as a team. I know that if you are going to be the team principal then you've got to stand there and accept responsibility for it."
Even though members of the technical team took the decision to change tack with the development of the car, Whitmarsh would not lay blame at any one individual in the team.
"I'm not the person that's going to fix the car. I've been involved in quite a lot of discussions over the last five days, as you might imagine, but the team have to work through this now. But wanting me to lay blame at people that are in the team or may no longer be in the team, that's never been my approach to management. We as a team have got to work together and we as a team have got to accept we haven't done a good enough job and we've got to fix it."
Jenson Button defended Whitmarsh and said the team should be proud of the progress it has already made since Australia.
"I think we should be happy with how we've moved forward since Melbourne," Button said. "Five days ago we got out the car and we were disappointed with the performance even though we scored a couple of points, but I think we've moved forward a lot. In qualifying at the last race we felt as if we were over one and half seconds off the pace, probably more, and here in qualifying if it had stayed dry we could have been within a second if not less.
"There is a lot of progress and I know there are a lot of questions aimed at Martin, because he's the boss, but we should focus on what we have achieved already this weekend and how we've moved forward from last weekend. We weren't where we wanted to be last weekend and we're still not where we want to be but I think we've made a lot of progress and we should be very impressed with the guys."
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