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McLaren: Red Bull are far from unbeatable 08 Jun 2011

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6,  Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 29 May 2011 Paddy Lowe (GBR) McLaren Technical Director.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Jerez, Spain,  Sunday, 13 February 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6,  Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 29 May 2011 (L to R): Nicole Scherzinger (USA) Pussycat Dolls Singer with Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6,  Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 29 May 2011 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/26 on the parade lap. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6,  Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 29 May 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6,  Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 29 May 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6,  Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 28 May 2011

Five Red Bull victories to McLaren’s one; 143 points for Sebastian Vettel to the 85 earned by Lewis Hamilton; and a 61-point gap between the two teams in the constructors' table (222 to 161). Whichever way you look at it, 2011 so far belongs to the cars in red and blue, not those in red and silver.

But technical director Paddy Lowe has warned that it’s far too early to rule McLaren out of championship contention. In fact, thanks to the MP4-26’s ever-improving race pace, Lowe is confident of taking plenty of wins and even insists they can stop Red Bull defending their 2010 crowns.

“There are another 12 or 13 races to come,” Lowe said during a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ‘Phone-in’. “The championship is still there for the taking, despite Sebastian Vettel’s lead in the drivers’ and Red Bull’s lead in the constructors’. I think that we’ve been quicker than them in the last few races - in race trim. Our car’s actually outperforming them at that point of the weekend.

“We are very buoyed up by the race pace at both a close circuit like Monaco and at a circuit such as Spain, which at first looked very tough for us and very strong for Red Bull. To have the pace there in the race was very encouraging for us.”

The main sticking point to success has been McLaren’s qualifying pace. Vettel has secured five pole positions from the six races run so far this season, whilst the only one he didn’t clinch - in Spain - went to Red Bull team mate Mark Webber. Hamilton and McLaren team mate Jenson Button have yet to start a 2011 race higher than second.

Although Lowe believes it is important McLaren can match or better the RB7’s qualifying pace, he recognises that in the short term it might not be necessary. Thanks to his team’s superior race pace, and if they can find gains with better strategy, he is hopeful they could bag plenty more wins.

“Clearly in qualifying we’ve got quite a gap to make up,” Lowe continued. “What exactly it is and how that advantage is gained by Red Bull we don’t know, but we’re working hard to find the performance, particularly in race conditions. I think we can play to our strengths and win races by being quicker on Sunday and having a good strategy.

“If we can close the gap in qualifying and put us more on a front foot on a Sunday, with our strong race pace, I think we’re in a very good position to win a lot of races and to bring ourselves back into championship contention. So we’re feeling very bullish about our current position event though the points’ standings may look a little depressing in isolation.”

McLaren enjoyed a very strong Canadian Grand Prix last year with Hamilton winning from pole position and Lowe is hopeful they could take a second successive victory in Montreal this weekend.

“I think our car performs well in slow-speed corners,” he concluded. “I think we’ve seen good performance in Monaco, particularly in the race. Cars that go well at Monaco also go well in Canada. We were quick in Spain in race trim so I think the car is still performing well in all types of corner and I think we’re therefore in a good position to take the race straight to Red Bull and win it if we can.”

The on-track action in Montreal gets underway on Friday.

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