Is There Actually Cause for Concern at McLaren Mercedes?

Billy Sexton@@billysextonAnalyst IMarch 5, 2009

A McLaren Mercedes car hasn't been at the top of the testing time sheets this week, nor has Lewis Hamilton had very productive days.

The world champion is continuing to run with a 2008-spec rear wing, whilst other drivers are testing a full 2009-spec vehicle. An interview with the BBC and a huge crash into the tyre wall on Thursday leaves us fans thinking if there is actually cause for concern at McLaren.

The uncompetitive lap times and the running of an '08 rear wing can be down to three things that we will explore in this article.

Firstly, the running of an '08 rear wing is down to the fact that Lewis is struggling to get to grips with the 2009 model.  The fact that other McLaren drivers, both de la Rosa and Heikki Kovalainen, have run a full 2009 spec car also backs this theory up.

If this is the case and Hamilton is struggling then he could be pushed harder to defend his championship, he needs to sort the problem out, and fast.

Another factor could be that McLaren are doing some downright dangerous (and maybe even stupid) 'sand-bagging.' For those who are unaware of what this term means allow me to explain; Sand bagging in Formula One is where a team/driver goes slow on purpose to lure their rivals and press into thinking they are struggling and will not be as competitive as expected.

Maybe in some simulation, Lewis has performed amazingly with the, albeit simulation, feel of the new car and the team have therefore taken a huge gamble on trying to make other teams think they are struggling.

I, personally, think that sand-bagging would be too dangerous and that Lewis is no exception when it comes to getting experience of the new car and how it works. However, wouldn't it be a surprise to Felipe Massa and Co if, in Australia, Hamilton obliterates the field after performing so poorly in testing. Extremely unlikely, but not totally out of the question.

Finally, McLaren could be telling the truth. Simple as.

They claim to be using a 2008 spec rear wing to experience change in down force levels. Also, they said that a problem with fitting the parts on Lewis' car yesterday prevented him from running when the track was at its fastest which could be the reason Hamilton was second slowest.

There clearly isn't a problem with the car because both Pedro and Heikki have used the narrow rear wing and both have completed a decent number of laps during the test and the reason McLaren are running Lewis with an '08 rear wing is because they know he could probably adapt quicker than Heikki.

In the whole scheme of things, I think McLaren are telling the truth. It's unlike Lewis to have major problems and sand bagging just seems a bit too far fetched, but, we'll just have to wait and see!