McLaren says nothing to choose between top three F1 teams during 2012 season
|By Sam Tremayne||Wednesday, July 25th 2012, 11:00 GMT|
McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale believes there is now nothing to choose between his outfit and its main title rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.
After struggling in recent races, a significant upgrade package produced marked improvements at Hockenheim, with Jenson Button able to challenge for victory.
On the back of that "significant step", Neale believes McLaren has closed the gap to the two teams ahead of it in the constructors' championship, and in the process delivered Button and Lewis Hamilton with a car capable of challenging for victory in Hungary.
Asked during a Vodafone phone-in whether he could discern any performance differences between McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull, Neale said: "Not based on the data I saw from Germany, no. I think the three top teams have very competitive cars.
"As we head into this weekend, are we expecting to lockout the front row? Expect no; hope, of course. We believe we have a competitive car.
"We have been focussing a lot on our race pace because our qualifying pace has been slightly stronger and we believe that both drivers have a good chance of being very competitive. Hopefully one of them can win this weekend."
Neale hailed the impact of the team's German updates, but said he was fully aware of the magnitude of the task it was still facing in order to try and challenge for world championship glory.
"We were very pleased with the upgrade package - everything we took on Friday that we wanted to stay on the car did. I think both drivers were [able] to contest the race, and I was delighted for Jenson that he managed to achieve second place - and for the whole team that the car made a significant step forward.
"We are under no illusions about how hard we have to work, but we also must remember there are still 400 odd points to come in this championship.
"But it's a very close grid, and not withstanding whether the teams are able to exploit the conditions and tyres, [teams] don't need to bring much to change the competitive order.
"Nobody at this stage in any team is going to be backing out and diverting to next year or the year after, so I think we are in for a very challenging race in Hungary and I suspect the rate of development will be very strong through August and September.
"Whilst it is undeniable that Fernando has driven really well this season, if you look at the point conversion rate of Red Bull they are also very strong, and we have to get in amongst that mix. There is still a lot to go though; I don't think it is static."