McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has admitted that the Woking squad needs to raise its game if it is to allow Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton to take the fight to Red Bull and Ferrari in the 2010 Formula One world championship.
Despite Button taking a tactical victory in round two in Australia, and McLaren currently sitting second to Ferrari in the constructors' table, Whitmarsh believes that the team could have produced better results from the opening three races - although he admits that outsiders may not agree.
“By our own very high standards, we've not fully met our very high expectations in the first three races, despite having what we feel is the necessary race pace to compete at the front, and despite having won the Australian Grand Prix," he reasoned, "That might sound overly self-critical, given that we are second in the constructors' championship, and given that Jenson and Lewis are both close to the top of the drivers' championship, but that's merely a reflection of the fact that we at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes aim to excel at all times."
With the Chinese Grand Prix, the fourth and final event of the opening 'flyaway' sequence of races, looming this weekend, Whitmarsh is keen to tighten up the entire McLaren operation and challenge qualifying pacesetter - and Malaysian racewinner - Red Bull, and close the gap on Ferrari at the head of the constructors' points.
“One of the greatest qualities of this team is its considerable strength in depth," he pointed out, "After establishing a strong and solid start to the season, we're confident that we'll become an even more formidable contender as we head into China and then the start of the European season.
“I regard that objective as a positive. It's our desire to improve and to eliminate mistakes from the operation that will make us stronger championship contenders. There's no denying that our successes – Jenson's integration into the team, his win in Melbourne, and some of the greatest drives of Lewis's career – have given us a great early-season boost. Now we are looking to establish ourselves as consistent challengers at the front, and to pick up the maximum available points on a regular basis."
Both Button and Hamilton admit to enjoying the Shanghai International Circuit, and the reigning world champion is looking forward to heading back there despite the inclement conditions that greeted the F1 circus last season.
“Last year, they moved the race from the end of the season to the start, and the weekend was quite a bit colder and wetter than it had been before," he reflected, "The weather forecast doesn't currently suggest this year's event will be any different, but I'm optimistic that we'll have a dry weekend and a more straightforward race than we did last year."