Lewis Hamilton has acknowledged that, despite McLaren carrying a perceived advantage to the Chinese Grand Prix, the team needs to be on its toes when it comes to monitoring what its rivals are doing, on and off track.
The controversial F-duct system, which McLaren debuted in Bahrain, is reckoned to be at its most effective on circuits such as Shanghai International, potentially giving Hamilton and team-mate Jenson Button a leg up on rivals Red Bull and Ferrari, who have shared the wins in 2010 with the Woking operation. The 2008 world champion, however, is keen to play down talk of an advantage, insisting that McLaren needs to show regard for its opponents' strengths.
"I still see Red Bull and Ferrari as the teams to beat here," Hamilton claimed when asked about the potential of the F-duct as a game changer, "You don't know what Mercedes have brought either, so I think it's the same as every race.
"Last weekend [in Malaysia], we seemed to be very competitive with them through practice but, in the race, the Red Bulls' pace was a little bit... I don't know if they were pushing that much, but we have just got to keep our eye on the ball and keep pushing.
"Sebastian [Vettel] could be quite a bit ahead at the moment [after leading all three races to date], but I think, at the moment, it is very close - and I'm hoping that it stays like that for some time. But, anything can happen and it can happen to any of us. We just have to try and stay as consistent as possible. You cannot afford too many DNFs, and I think that is probably what every team is trying to maintain, to try and stay as consistent as possible."
With McLaren's engineering director Paddy Lowe having revealed that the team had had to abandon work on a trick suspension system to combat that it suspects Red Bull is using - thanks to an FIA 'clarification' - Hamilton was asked whether he saw the move as a setback.
"We have not had to abandon much," he insisted, "There are so many different things in the pipeline and one of those was to go in a similar direction as perhaps some other teams have done. But it is clear everyone cannot do that now.
"I don't know how that affects others, but it doesn't really affect us. We still have updates that we are working on and [which] should be coming in the course of the next few weeks or months. I am looking forward to seeing the updates come, but I know the guys back at the factory are flat out as we try to make as many improvements as we can."