F1 » 27 May 2010
McLaren confident of closing gap to Red Bull
McLaren MD Jonathan Neale is confident that the Woking team can catch a rampant Red Bull by mid-season.
McLaren has warned Formula One pacesetter Red Bull Racing not to rest on its laurels just yet, pointing out that it has overhauled bigger deficits that it currently has to the Milton Keynes outfit.
Speaking in a pre-Istanbul phone-in, McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale admitted that there was work to be done to close the gap to Red Bull's RB6 but insisted that, not only was the team working flat-out to do so, but remained confident that the deficit could be erased.
“Based on our own experience, we know that we closed a 2.5 second-a-lap gap between the start of the season and Hungary last year, so we've demonstrated that kind of gradient is do-able," Neale commented, "[Red Bull] have a quick car so, now, it's just up to the rest of us to get the job done.
“Red Bull are maybe 0.8secs or a second ahead at some circuits, [but] I think they are eminently catchable - and we fully intend to do that. It's all still to play for. At the moment, Red Bull have the upper hand, but I'm confident that won't be the case by the middle of the season.”
Neale pointed to a lack of qualifying pace as the main reason for the Woking team having to play catch-up. Red Bull has claimed all six pole positions in 2010, but has won only half the races, with Jenson Button claiming two of the other three for McLaren. The reigning world champion used clever tyre strategy in both Australia and China, but has yet to qualifying anywhere near the front row as the MP4-25 lacks the pace to challenge either Mark Webber or Sebastian Vettel. Neale, however, insisted that neither driver was to blame for the lack of performance.
“I don't think we've given Jenson or Lewis [Hamilton] a car that can put them at the front of the grid yet,” he conceded, “Both are working really well and, in terms of the car, both leave nothing on the circuit, [but] they've got their work cut out. The obligation is now on us, as a team, to give them a car to get the job done, not for the drivers themselves to look at what they need to do next.
"At the moment, our car seems to work better on the high-speed circuits but, as has been well documented, we have more of an issue on the low-speed corners. We're working on a particular area of the car at the moment, and it will work better, but I am sure that a number of the teams are taking upgrades [to Turkey this weekend], so we will see what everybody brings. It is a sweeping circuit, and very smooth, so you can run the car reasonably stiff, which will probably suit us."
Neale is also aware that any perceived advantage McLaren may have got from its controversial F-duct is likely to be narrowed as its rivals perfect similar systems.
"Ferrari have done good work in that area, and demonstrated they have been able to get a [rear] wing to switch, so it doesn't surprise me at all that Red Bull will be there or thereabouts," he noted, "F1 is fantastic at invention and intrigue and part of that makes sport interesting. The Red Bull car has various features on it that everybody is looking at and trying to understand. Once you reveal these things at the beginning of the season and everybody figures out what you are doing and how it works, then the gap gets closed very quickly."
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