McLaren need to turn things around pretty quickly in order to stop the pressure that is building on team principal Martin Whitmarsh, according to David Coulthard.
While most teams' 2013 challengers are evolution of last year's models with a view to develop the car throughout the season, McLaren opted for a radical design change for the MP4-28.
However, the team didn't get much joy out of the new car during the Australian GP as both Jenson Button and Sergio Perez struggled during qualifying while the former's ninth-place finish was the best they could manage on the Sunday.
Former F1 driver and current BBC F1 commentator Coulthard believes the buck stops at Whitmarsh and the team have four races to get their act together.
Coulthard wrote in The Telegraph: 'Over the next three races in Malaysia, China and Bahrain, they need to start understanding what the problem is. If it is a fundamental issue, then they need to make sure, come the Spanish Grand Prix in May, that they have the requisite parts to maximise the potential. The general rule is that by the fifth race, when the teams come to Europe, you start to see the true pecking order emerging.
'For a quarter of the season McLaren could find themselves scrapping for the minor points, simply due to the distances involved, and because teams cannot react as quickly as they might do closer to home.
'You cannot escape the fact that there is pressure upon Martin Whitmarsh as team principal, for in the end, the captain of the ship is responsible for its navigation.
'Ultimately, Martin is accountable in the same way that the technical director and the driver is. But F1 is not a sport where people shy away from responsibility. It is one of the best businesses for accountability that I have ever come across. Any evidence of a lack of commitment, lack of focus, or an inability to deliver consistently, is immediately addressed. Failure is not an option.
'What the shareholders or what the McLaren board will do at any given point is to ask: "What was the reason for that success or failure?" You do not win by accident any more than you lose by accident.'
It is not only on the track that things are not going well for McLaren as they lost Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes at the end of last season while technical director Paddy Lowe will follow his fellow Briton to Brackley at the end of this campaign.
Coulthard admits questions should be raised about the staff that is leaving McLaren.
'I worked at McLaren under Ron Dennis rather than Martin, and Ron always used to say: "I don't design the car."' he wrote. 'Instead he would give the people the right power, the right salaries, the right environment. I would imagine that Ron has passed on the same message and that Martin is using those very words, trying to bring people together.
'I am not aware of any major headhunting recently, but I am aware of certain people leaving, not least Lewis Hamilton and Paddy Lowe on the technical side. There will be question marks, but I still do not feel you can shine the spotlight on one individual.'
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