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Whitmarsh predicts ‘epic’ title battle

Whitmarsh predicts ‘epic’ title battle

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 13:52

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes Formula 1 fans will be treated to an “epic” season after the Turkish Grand Prix blew the title race wide open again.

Red Bull Racing’s dominance in Spain and Monaco prompted predictions that the Milton Keynes-based squad would run away with both championships – but McLaren made a breakthrough in Istanbul and was pushing its rival hard when the collision between the RBR team-mates handed Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button a one-two finish.

Whitmarsh reckons McLaren now has a superior car in race conditions thanks to its rapid rate of development in recent weeks.

“Undoubtedly Red Bull still had an advantage on us in qualifying [in Istanbul],” he said during Tuesday’s Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in.

“But I think it was clear that we had a faster race pace and that was very encouraging.

“That has really been down to good solid work developing the car. We try to bring small, incremental improvements to the car on a continuous basis.

“Red Bull haven’t conveniently stood still for us. They’re a good team and they are developing their car.

“We pride ourselves on trying to develop quicker than our competitors. I think we proved that last year and we’re going to try to do it again this year and keep the pressure on them.”

While he conceded McLaren had let some opportunities slip this season, Whitmarsh said: “I think we’ve pulled ourselves up in the last few races.

“We’ve made some mistakes this year, we could have done a better job, but we do have some good momentum.”

Whitmarsh expects the balance of power among the leading teams to remain finely poised throughout the 2010 campaign.

“We don’t underestimate Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes; they’re all capable of fighting back, they’ve got good people and good drivers,” he said.

“I suspect this is going to be an epic Formula 1 season.

“A few races ago people were predicting a Red Bull runaway, and I think people now suspect that the whole thing is going to be a lot closer than that.

“We’ve had a number of different winners this year, and most of the races have been great spectacles.

“I think predicting even the outcome of this coming weekend is impossible for any pundit, and that’s how the sport should be – that’s what makes it exciting for all of us.”

The next two venues in Montreal and Valencia are expected to play to McLaren strengths – with long straights allowing it to capitalise on the MP4-25’s highly effective F-duct and superior straightline speed, and a dearth of the fast corners in which the Red Bull RB6 excels.

Whitmarsh denied suggestions that the next two races are “must-wins” for McLaren, but admitted they should favour the Woking team.

“[Montreal] ought to be where we are quick,” he said.

“It’s obviously where Lewis won his first ever grand prix [in 2007], so it’s a happy hunting ground for him.

“The Red Bull is still very strong in long high-speed corners. Fortunately the next two grands prix don’t feature a lot of those, so we hope that we’ll be strong there.

“But whilst we’re developing our car we never know what Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari are going to turn up with. Maybe they’ll turn up with a larger step forward than us.

“So we’re not considering them as must-wins, but the next two races are circuits where I hope we’ll be strong.”

McLaren is bringing a substantial aerodynamic upgrade to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, including revised front and rear wings.

“We had a new front wing as part of the package in Istanbul but it didn’t work,” said Whitmarsh.

“We think we’ve understood that so we’ve modified it and hopefully that will work.

“We also have a new rear wing lower element and some other modifications to the diffuser.

“So we’ve got a reasonable aerodynamic package which we hope will take us a few steps further forward.”
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