McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has backed the job that new sporting director Sam Michael (LEFT) has done for the team this year, and even suggested he could be the man to replace him in the future.
Michael has faced criticism this year because of a number of high profile pit stop errors that have proved costly in races. However, with the pit crew having almost made big progress in improving its performance – which manifested itself in delivering the fastest-ever Formula 1 stop in Valencia – Whitmarsh sees only positives from Michael's input.
"I think Sam has had a tough time, with high expectations, but I think he is good leader material," Whitmarsh said. "He is someone who is, I am sure, harboring expectations to kick me out of my job one day. And I think that is healthy, because there probably wasn't anyone in the company, below me at least, who wanted my job. So I think that is a healthy dynamic."
Whitmarsh believes Michael's strong character was a key consideration when the team signed him, and that soon the team will be focusing on how good its pit crew are doing rather than ironing out the mistakes.
"I didn't know Sam very well before, but I had come across him in meetings and I always thought he was strong and forthright, and that is what drew me to think that he was the sort of man we needed," said Whitmarsh. "So I think it has been unfortunate, but he is strong and resilient and we will power through it. For the last two grands prix we have had the fastest pit stops in the race, and in the last race it was the fastest pit stop in the history of F1.
"But naturally people will not focus on that, they will focus on other issues, which is fine because so do we. We don't focus on, 'Oh, we just did 2.6 seconds,' we say, 'What happened at the other stop?' That is fine. It doesn't worry me and I don't think it will worry him either."