Formula 1 team McLaren’s ongoing problems with trying to keep driver Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton not only successful, but in the same stable for the good of the team, is reminiscent of New Labour’s struggles with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. And team principal Mike Whitmarsh has been forced to adopt John Prescott’s peacemaker role.
During the turbulent last few years of Tony Blair’s premiership, numerous political accounts from figures such as Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell have revealed that Prescott was instrumental in maintaining communication between Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street – long after face-to-face contact between the government’s leading lights had become virtually impossible.
Prescott’s aim was to maintain Labour’s grip on government – and, by extension, its success – by keeping its two architects in a political Big Tent. Similarly, Whitmarsh’s task at present seems to focus on keeping Hamilton at McLaren – and having two winning drivers in the fold – in the wake of Mercedes’ reported courting of Hamilton and a gradual cooling of relations between the two drivers.
Hamilton has been asked to take a pay cut at McLaren as the team seeks to tighten its belt. His response to this has been a typical Hamilton outbreak of petulance and childish behaviour, including a bizarre situation just over a week ago where he shared an image on Twitter of his team’s top-secret car performance data.
McLaren likes to foster internal competitiveness, so the reported breakdown in relations between its two drivers is secondary to the concern that Hamilton, arguably the most skilled driver of the pair, may quit. The other man, to his credit, is keeping his lips largely Buttoned on the affair, but did say he was “surprised and disappointed” by Hamilton’s tweet.
Whitmarsh has said publicly that he hasn’t given a Plan B in the event of Hamilton quitting any thought, suggesting it is imperative for the team to retain the driver’s services. But more than that, McLaren needs to nip this issue in the bud quickly: the Blair/Brown battles teach us how toxic a long, drawn out altercation between two big beasts can be.
Management ups and downs
Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl
Murray becoming the first Briton to win a tennis Grand Slam in 76 years seals eight months of hard graft under new coach Ivan Lendl. After a Wimbledon final, Olympic Gold and now the US Open title, the change of backroom management seems to have finally paid off.
The American football league’s opening weekend was full of high scoring, exciting games, but beset by a host of refereeing errors that – in this most rule-heavy and technical of sports – really took the sheen off proceedings. The NFL and its official referees have been in a bitter dispute over pay and benefits, and the league used replacement refs from other levels of the game – including college and high-school American football.