By Will Gray, England
Autosport-Atlas GP Correspondent
The Monaco GP highlighted the difference between Kimi Raikkonen, who dominated throughout the weekend, and Juan Pablo Montoya, who had a turbulent weekend that left him in his teammate's shadow. Will Gray talked to McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh after the race about the drivers, team orders, and the fight for the Championship
The scorecard for the last four races shows that Kimi Raikkonen won two consecutive races while leading from start to finish; retired from a third race due to mechanical failure while leading from pole position, and scored a third place in the fourth race. At the same time, his teammate Juan Pablo Montoya missed two races because of an injury sustained while playing tennis; finished seventh in his return race and fifth in the fourth.
And yet the scorecard doesn't say anything about the flawless manner in which Raikkonen went about racking up his achievements, nor does it state anything about the errors that Montoya has made in practice and qualifying upon his return.
Given the hype that surrounded McLaren's 2005 line-up, with expectations of a repeat of their glory inter-team battle days between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, is McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh worried that perhaps things are not quite working to plan?
"We showed during the winter that we have the most exciting drivers line-up in Formula One and I still think we have," he said on Sunday, after the Monaco Grand Prix. "Our mission now is to make sure we continue to develop and improve the car, the engine, the whole package, and if we do that and we can do it at a greater rate than Renault - who will not sit back and do nothing - then we are in with the prospect of winning a Championship."
Q: How is Montoya reacting to his current situation - having to miss two races and then come back be beaten by his teammate?
Whitmarsh: "I think Juan Pablo is an immensely competitive racer and he will be saying, with a few expletives in it, 'right, I am going to beat his arse at the next race'. And that is the philosophy of McLaren. There is nothing we like more to see than both of our drivers trying to beat each other and drawing motivation from the competition between themselves.
"At the moment, Kimi is in a stronger position than Juan Pablo in the Championship and he has got the consistency, he has got the results, but I am sure the thing that characterises our team is, we have a relatively long-term relationship with all our drivers over the last ten to even 15 years, and I think we have got two guys who I think Michael [Schumacher] rightly fears and they both want to beat Michael and they both want to become World Champions. They are both really tough racers and we look forward to some real competition between the two of them."
Q: It seems they feel extremely competitive toward each other...
Whitmarsh: "They do, and that is not unnatural. I think that is the case. If you are a racing driver and you are honest about it, whatever team you are in, the driver you want to beat is your teammate.
"But they have tremendous spirit between them. People talk about the contrasting personalities of the Latin and the Iceman. The reality is that, in my personal opinion, they are much more similar than perhaps people project, and I think they have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. They have got very similar philosophies, and I think they are working well as partners in the team, and they both want to beat each other but in as healthy a way as possible.
"If we had either teammate saying 'I don't care if I beat the other' then we have got a big problem, I think. Obviously here that is not the case."
Q: We all know that the Constructors' Championship is the most important to McLaren...
Whitmarsh: "...I don't think that is necessarily the case. The reality is, strangely, in terms of a fiscal standpoint and for our corporate ego, the Constructors' Championship is very important, but if we are honest about it, then the trophies we cherish are the driver wins, and the trophy we cherish most is the Drivers' Championship.
"We want to win both. We want to win the Constructors' title and the Drivers' title this year. But at the end of the day, people remember the Drivers' Championship more than the Constructors' Championship, so we still fight for that."
Q: Surely with the situation you're now, and the difficulty of closing the gap to Fernando Alonso, you must be starting to think about team work and team orders?
Whitmarsh: "I think we always try to balance that. As a philosophy, we have maintained that at the end of the day we are racing as a team, and the team interest [comes first] - be it a Drivers' or Constructors' Championship. If we have to call team orders we will do.
"But, I think, we go into each season trying to give both drivers an equal opportunity and at the moment it is early in the year still, there are lots of races to go, and we look at the longer-term picture. The advantage of declaring a team order early on in the season is that you clearly focus on one driver and you make sure you don't rub points from yourself in your quest to win the Drivers' Championship.
"However, I think you have to be cautious that if by taking such short-term action you erode the motivation of the team - and it is the drivers and the team, because the engineers and technicians and mechanics who work on either car take pride in the performance of that car. We think that there are certainly occasions in the history of this team where we have taken points from ourselves and, if viewed in isolation, then undeniably our philosophy has been harmful, in that snapshot isolation. But in the longer term, I think the balanced approach that we have is appreciated and respected by drivers and people in the team, and it is a philosophy we will maintain."
Q: So you're not ruling out using team orders to help Raikkonen win the title?
Whitmarsh: "If there comes a point where we think it is appropriate, we will consider team orders. But I think Juan Pablo has been unfortunate - we have a multi-year relationship with Juan Pablo and we want to win many races with him; we want him to be a motivated member of the team, and at the moment our judgement would be to give them both the opportunity to win races.
"All our drivers are remarkable people, and all people working in Formula One work incredibly hard. But you need the motivation to do that. Being in a team where it is pre-destined, pre-determined, that one driver must be favoured over another, people focus in on that and the impact it has on the second driver... but I think the impact it has on everyone focused around the other driver is negative.
"Now, it is difficult to quantify objectively, but we think that is the right approach. I hope Juan Pablo and Kimi both win races in the remainder of this year."
Q: Williams did well at Monaco. Do you see them as a threat, or was their success a 'one off'?
Whitmarsh: "I think Williams are a competent organisation. Obviously Renault misjudged the use of their tyres, Toyota weren't so strong here, and this circuit is very different to all others, and I think we have been fortunate in that we have been able to put together a package that seems to suit everything. It is competitive at Imola, with chicanes, at a technical circuit like Barcelona and also at a circuit like this. Others will fluctuate.
"I think in the Nurburgring Renault and Toyota will be strong, but I think Williams are fighting back. Although I hope - and believe - that we are going to be stronger than they are. We are still improving our package, and they will have to increase it too."
Q: What about Fernando Alonso? Can Kimi beat him to the World Championship title?
Whitmarsh: "Kimi has come close before and he can win this Championship. Alonso is going to put up a fight, which he should, and which is great for the sport, but we have now got to plough away, take away points at every event, and there is every indication that we can."