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McLaren: Development race could last until Abu Dhabi finale 25 Aug 2010

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 30 July 2010 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren with Jonathan Neale (GBR) McLaren Managing Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Practice Day, Silverstone, England, Friday, 9 July 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 1 August 2010

With five drivers within 20 points of each other in the standings and Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari still firmly in contention for the constructors’ title, this season’s hunt for championship glory couldn’t be tighter. And in the midst of such a closely pitched battle the speed and success of a team’s development will make all the difference over the remaining seven races.

As a result, McLaren, currently second with an eight-point deficit to leaders Red Bull, plan to continue improving their MP4-25 right up to November’s season finale, with managing director Jonathan Neale revealing during a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 'Phone-In' that the team may well take an upgrade to the last race in Abu Dhabi.

“It’s a very close championship at this stage,” said Neale. “It will be a straight development race, as we knew it would be at the beginning of the year, with a number of drivers being very close. It depends on what we can invent between now and then. We will be expecting upgrade packages for Singapore and beyond. “

At this stage of the season, some teams will be debating whether to abandon further development on their 2010 cars and instead focus exclusively on 2011. But if the points table stays as tight as it is now, Neale says such a move won’t even be a consideration for McLaren.

“I suspect it will be one of those long development races and we will, if we are as close as we are at this stage, be expecting to take an upgrade package to the last race,” he confirmed.

Just before the summer break, McLaren endured a tough time at the Hungarian Grand Prix, qualifying almost two seconds down on the Red Bull of polesitter Sebastian Vettel and clinching just four points from the race. But Neale believes with hard work the team can get the measure of Red Bull and Ferrari over the forthcoming rounds.

“We underperformed in Hungary,” he said. “The gap to Ferrari and Red Bull was significant. But we’re working very hard to do something about that. It’s very close at the top and we’ve got to fight back and that’s what we’re planning to do. Every race is important and it will be a very close end to the season. We want to win it as much as anybody so we’ll rise to the challenge.”

McLaren will be back on track this weekend for the Belgian Grand Prix, which gets underway on Friday at Spa-Francorchamps.