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McLaren out to win ‘second half’ of 2009 in Abu Dhabi 28 Oct 2009

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 3 October 2009 Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer Te the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 26 July 2009 Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 27 September 2009

Brawn GP may have pocketed both championships in Brazil, but McLaren aren’t giving up on 2009 just yet, with team principal Martin Whitmarsh hoping they’ll leave this weekend’s inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the strongest team of the season’s second half.

After their disastrous start to the year, McLaren have certainly pulled off a miraculous comeback in 2009, turning a car that had qualified down in 18th at the season opener in Australia into one that has been frequently challenging for poles and podiums as the season has entered its final stages.

To put that into context, Lewis Hamilton has been the top-scoring driver since July’s German Grand Prix with his 40-point haul, while the team as a whole - with the help of Heikki Kovalainen - have scored 58. That’s two more than champions Brawn have managed, 14 more than traditional rivals Ferrari and just three less than Red Bull.

“If we look at the second half of this year, then Lewis has scored more points than any other driver, and we are a couple of points light of Red Bull,” Whitmarsh explained during a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 'Phone-In' session. “So hopefully this weekend we can firmly establish ourselves as having won the second half of the season. I very much hope and believe that we have a good chance of winning in Abu Dhabi.”

For Whitmarsh, who became team principal at the start of the year after two decades at McLaren, their bounce back this season is a source of immense satisfaction.

“It was an amazingly difficult start to the year for the team and for Lewis,” he said. “To have had such a traumatic start and to have really knuckled down and developed a car that is really there or thereabouts, challenging for a win at every circuit since Germany, fills me with enormous pride with what they have done.”

As well as believing McLaren will put in a competitive performance at this weekend’s Yas Marina season finale, Whitmarsh is also very optimistic concerning the team’s 2010 prospects, when he expects them to again be on the pace, this time from the outset.

“The confidence for next year is good,” he concluded. “Despite a good turnaround in the season, we weren’t realistically competing for this year’s championship. Therefore we’ve put a tremendous amount of effort into next year’s car. I know that it is already a quicker car inherently than the car that we have this year, and good progress is being made day by day as we develop that car.

“We’ve been working hard and we have got a strong team, so I’ve got every confidence, that not only will we come out of the box with a competitive car from the very beginning of the year, but that we will be a very tough competitor over the course of the year too. No one here is complacent or thinks it’s going to be easy to go out there and win races, but I really do think that we’ll be very competitive from the get go.”

If McLaren out-score Ferrari in Abu Dhabi this weekend they are assured of third place in the 2009 constructors’ championship.