McLaren pushing for qualifying pace
|By Jonathan Noble||Monday, April 18th 2011, 14:00 GMT|
McLaren will throw all it can into an upgrade package for its car over the next few weeks, as it eyes closing down the performance gap to main rivals Red Bull Racing at the Turkish Grand Prix.
Although great driving and a good strategy call helped Lewis Hamilton end Sebastian Vettel's winning streak in Formula 1 in Shanghai, McLaren is under no illusions that it needs to lift its game.
Vettel has been on pole position at all three races held so far this season, and it is clear that the RB7 is in a class of its own in terms of single-lap pace.
And despite things being much closer between Red Bull Racing and other teams in the race, McLaren says that it cannot simply rely on that if it is to have a decent shout at winning this year's world championship.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh told AUTOSPORT: "We need to improve our qualifying pace to be able to match Red Bull Racing.
"I think race pace it is quite close, but I would like us to be ahead on both fronts. We have two really great drivers, a great team that has responded well to a very difficult start to the year, so I am very proud of them. But there is a long championship ahead."
McLaren did run with an updated floor, diffuser and exhaust package at last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, but Whitmarsh thinks that much more progress will be needed in the next few weeks so it can deliver a big step for the Istanbul event.
"We will throw everything we can at it," he said. "We have loads of things that we are pushing on. But depending to what extent they deliver, to what extent they are compatible, and what bits we can get there. I won't truly know what we have until the Friday morning in Turkey."
Speaking about the championship fight, Whitmarsh said it was hugely encouraging that Red Bull Racing had been put under pressure in each of the three races - despite having such a quick car.
"They haven't disappeared into the distance," he said. "It has been a good start to the year. Between Ferrari and Mercedes it is close, and they can turn the heat up as well.
"But we will concentrate on our own job and, if we can make our car quicker, then hopefully we can get to a position with strength vis-à-vis Red Bull. But we don't underestimate all the other teams who are chasing us down hard."