The McLaren team has said that it will do its best to give Lewis Hamilton a chance to rediscover his front-running form at the race he loves most, when the Formula One circus arrives in Monaco next weekend.
The reigning world champion has so far been denied the chance to defend his title in style as McLaren's MP4-24 struggles to match unexpected pacesetters Brawn and Red Bull. Last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix was a particularly galling performance as Hamilton found himself being lapped by the resurrected Jenson Button, who appears on course to keep the world crown in Britain after taking four wins from five races.
Hamilton missed the cut to get into the final phase of qualifying and, from 14th on the grid, could only improve to ninth spot by the chequered flag. Even though team principal Martin Whitmarsh insisted that that performance underlined Hamilton's fighting qualities, there was no disguising the driver's frustration at having to battle it out in midfield.
"What can I do? I drove my heart out, as I always do, but it's just that the car is not good," he told the BBC
after the Barcelona race, "It's a shame they haven't given me a car to defend the championship with. The car is that
bad - I'm driving the socks off it, [but] there's just no hope. At the moment, we don't have the car to win the championship."
While Hamilton paid tribute to the team's morale in a trying campaign, Whitmarsh claimed that Monaco could provide some reward for the Briton's own efforts, as McLaren continues to push ahead with development tweaks. Hamilton won last year's Monaco GP despite hitting the barriers in the wet early laps, and Whitmarsh believes that similar success could be on the cards at a circuit where driver ability counts heavily.
"I said that [Spain would be our nadir] and I truly believe - and hope - it is the case," the team principal told reporters, "This was going to be a very difficult weekend, [but] I think there are positives to take out of it. We have come a long way from where we were eight weeks ago, and the other positive is look at Lewis, what a fighter and what a great drive from him. He's always been in a winning car, but he's not at the moment and he's still doing a fantastic job.
"Monaco is going to be different and we are going to be strong. It is a circuit that will suit us and Lewis is mega there. We still have loads of work - it's not going to be magic, but we are definitely going to be stronger there and we are going to keep pushing this car to make it better. I'd love to have a Eureka moment, but I think you've just got to grind away. We are fighters, we are racers and we've got to keep fighting."