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Whitmarsh: McLaren close to unlocking potential 20 Aug 2010

Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 24 July 2010 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 1 August 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 1 August 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 30 July 2010

After stealing a march on their rivals at the start of the season with their innovative F-duct, McLaren have since fallen behind in the 2010 development race. Late introducing their version of the blown diffuser, they have struggled to match Red Bull and Ferrari at recent races and lost their championship lead at the last round.

However, ahead of next weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, team principal Martin Whitmarsh maintains it is only a matter of time before McLaren tap into the performance gains he feels are buried within the MP4-25 and its latest updates.

“As we’ve always stated, we believe there are some large areas of performance locked within the car and its recent upgrade, and we are confident that our solid-engineering approach will enable us to fully unlock them sooner rather than later,” he said.

While media focus concerning Red Bull and Ferrari has moved on to ‘flexible’ front wings, McLaren have still to perfect the blown-diffuser concept - one which Red Bull introduced at the start of the year and which Ferrari have had working well for several races now.

“While we believe our recent upgrades have given us a downforce improvement, it appears that the package hasn’t yet delivered to its full potential, particularly in terms of providing the drivers with a consistent, confidence-delivering platform,” admitted Whitmarsh.

Unable to conduct significant development over the summer break thanks to the obligatory factory shutdown, McLaren are now pinning their hopes on further testing at Spa-Francorchamps next weekend to optimise the updated MP4-25 package.

“We were able to carry out some useful evaluative tests during practice in Hungary, which provided us with some useful data and avenues for experimentation,” explained Whitmarsh. “And we’ll take that programme further in Spa, running floor rakes during practice to supply us with more information.”

There are other causes for optimism at McLaren. The downtime since Hungary has allowed the team to carry out maintenance work on their windtunnel, which should improve its correlation, and some believe the stricter front wing rigidity tests to be introduced at Spa could play into their hands if rivals are forced to revise their cars.

Driver Jenson Button urged caution, though: “While we’re optimistic that the bodywork rules clarification will close the gap among the top teams, and that both Spa and Monza should suit our package better than the Hungaroring, it’s still important that we regain the momentum we’d reached earlier this season.”

Despite their recent woes, McLaren remain very much in the hunt for both titles. They trail Red Bull by just eight points in the constructors’ standings, while Button and team mate Lewis Hamilton are fourth and second respectively in the drivers’ table.