Are McLaren-Mercedes Good Enough?

James BloodContributor IMay 27, 2008

This weekend saw Lewis Hamilton win his first Grand Prix in Monaco, nothing less than a fantastic achievement for Lewis and his team.

But the question of whether the Woking based team has a car capable of challenging for either the Drivers' Championship or the Constructors' Championship still looms overhead.

First of all, let's concentrate on the positives. They certainly have drivers capable of getting the best out of the car, even if Heikki Kovaleinen seems to have bought his lucky heather at the same place as Mark Webber.

Secondly, in the past two races in Turkey and Monte Carlo, the team did everything perfectly. Such was the perfection of the unexpected strategy change, Hamilton had a 40 second lead at one point in Monaco.

Be that as it may, it came as a surprise to many to find that Ferrari locked out the front row of the grid in Monaco for the first time in nearly 30 years, showing that even on 'McLaren circuits' their car is sublime.

Ron Dennis will know if they were fuelled lighter than his cars, but at a track where everybody was expecting McLaren to dominate with their shorter wheelbase, it looks ominous for McLaren fans in terms of the raw pace of the two cars.

Indeed, if it were not for some very poor strategising from Ferrari and a spot of luck when Hamilton punctured his tire, Ferrari may well have won this race, and no doubt some people would argue that they should have.

By the same token, I am the first to admit that Kimi Raikonnen had a shocker by his very high standards. He was largely anonymous throughout the entirety of the race until he crashed into the back of the Force India of Adrian Sutil. Mike Gascoyne was furious about this after the race but there was absolutely no case to suggest that Raikonnen did something untoward, although I have the deepest sympathy for the young German.

And so, the season moves on to Montréal with the weight of expectation again on McLaren. Lewis is on a high and will want to repeat his win last year; hopefully Kovaleinen will find a bit of luck and carry his qualifying pace into the race; and the entire McLaren pit team will be buzzing and itching to get another result. Things look less rosy at the opposite end of the pit lane, but it can change in an instant.

The drivers are more experienced for one thing, but there is simply no avoiding that the F2008 is much better than the MP4-23. I, for one, believe Canada will really prove the mettle of Ferrari. If they win, it will be a huge blow to McLaren. If McLaren win, it will have to be by a large margin if they want to keep confidence up.

So are McLaren-Mercedes good enough? Probably not.