Team rivals Martin Whitmarsh and Sam Michael celebrate their birthdays today. It’s fair to say that Martin has had a much better 2011 so far than Sam.
McLaren Team Principal Martin is 53 today. He is entering his third season in that position, and he’s also become chair of FOTA with Eric Bouiller as his deputy. Having graduated in 1980 aged 22, he began working for BAE Systems. In 1989 he moved away from airplanes to racecars with McLaren, as Head of Operations. He’s never changed teams, and in 1997 became Managing Director. Two more promotions followed: in 2004 becoming CEO of the F1-side, and in 2009 becoming TP.
Since 1989, he’s seen McLaren have ups and downs, and their worst winter of testing was this year. But a swift decision saw the exhaust revert to a simpler design. Two second-places and a win later he and the team were proved right. McLaren are clearly the main rivals to Red Bull at the moment, and the other teams have a lot of catching up to do.
40-year-old Aussie Sam Michael, by contrast, is not where he wants to be. The technical director at Williams, he massively promoted their ‘tight rear end’, but with four retirements and two no-points finishes later (including Maldonado finishing behind Kovalainen’s Lotus), the team need to work hard to lift themselves off the back markers and into the midfield.
Like Martin, Sam has a degree in Mechanical Engineering. In 1993 be begam working for Lotus, and when that team left he began work with Jordan. By 1998 he was Ralf Schumacher’s race engineer, then Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s in 1999. They managed two wins together.
Sam was soon at Williams thanks to Sir Frank, becoming Senior Operations Engineer, and in 2004 was promoted as Patrick Head changed his role. Williams managed to finish 6th last season – a fair measure of their performance – but this season have had their worst start ever. Of course Sam is determined to pull them forward, and updates at Istanbul should change their fortunes and leave Lotus behind – for one race anyway. The team are stuck 10th in the championship, and have a lot of work to do.
Good luck Sam and Martin. May the rest of 2011 go well for you!