Buoyed by Lewis Hamilton's victory on the eve of Formula One's summer break, the entire McLaren team heads to Spain confident that it can again interfere in the world championship battle.
Hamilton was unstoppable in the Hungarian Grand Prix, as the latest raft of development parts for the MP4-24 combined with the first real opportunity to benefit from its KERS system and propelled the Briton to an eleven-second victory - the first of his title defence. Coming on the back of a clear step forward in Germany - where Hamilton removed himself from contention by clipping Mark Webber's front wing at turn one and suffering a puncture - McLaren appears to have elevated itself into the heart of the scrap between Brawn and Red Bull which, with Ferrari, Williams and Toyota all throwing in the occasional frontrunning performance, threatens to make the remainder of the season a tense affair.
“It's great to be getting back to business after the four-week break," Hamilton admitted, "I'm still buzzing from the win in Hungary and I'm hopeful of being able to carry that pace into the Valencia weekend – particularly with our new upgrades to the car.
"It's a very demanding circuit, the kind of place that punishes any mistakes hard, but it's quite tight and relatively slow, so it should suit our package. It's also very difficult to overtake, as we discovered last year, but, with our KERS, Mercedes-Benz has proved that anything can happen and I'm once again hoping that it will provide the difference in the race.”
Hamilton finished second to Felipe Massa in last year's inaugural race around Valencia's America's Cup port, despite carrying an injury that his team feared may sideline him from the event, and new team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes that the Briton can go one better than that this season.
“While the summer break has meant we've had four weeks to enjoy Lewis's victory in Budapest, it's very important that we are able to maintain that winning momentum into this weekend's race," Whitmarsh commented, "Fortunately, we have made a structured effort to bring further improvements to the car in Spain and the whole team has been buoyed by the win and is really looking forward to another strong set of results this weekend. I've no doubts that we'll certainly hit the ground running on Friday."
Winning the European Grand Prix would be a fitting way to mark the McLaren team's 250th race in partnership with Mercedes-Benz, and Hamilton's team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen, echoes the mood of optimism currently pervading Woking.
“After the summer break, I think the whole team is really looking forward to the second half of the season," the Finn confirmed, "We're all refreshed and united, and I think there's a lot of potential for the remaining races.
“Having driven the fully updated car for the first time in Hungary last month, it was very encouraging to be able to feel just how much progress the team has made developing the MP4-24. We've now got a car that's much easier to drive on the limit, and which really rewards your input, so I'm really looking forward to Valencia which, while it won't suit us as strongly as the Hungaroring, should be another strong opportunity for us to score some more points."