Martin Whitmarsh has described the upcoming British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend as an 'important' acid test for McLaren-Mercedes' hopes of F1 2010 title glory, contending that 'if we can be competitive [against Red Bull Racing] there, we have a good chance to win both championships'.
Having dominated the opening seven races of the campaign in terms of out-and-out raw pace, Red Bull found itself under attack from McLaren in the Turkish Grand Prix at the end of May – and that pressure incontrovertibly played a role in tipping Sebastian Vettel to breaking-point and beyond.
A one-two for Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in Istanbul was swiftly followed by another in Montreal a fortnight later, and if the European Grand Prix last time out witnessed an unexpected return to the top step of the rostrum for RBR and Vettel around a circuit that had not been expected to suit Adrian Newey's Renault-powered RB6, heading next to Silverstone, the duel between the two teams appears finely-poised – and the formbook has been cast out of the window.
Between them, Hamilton and Button have conceded a mere ten points over the last three grands prix, meaning the pair will arrive at Silverstone at the head of the drivers' standings – and McLaren similarly leads the way in the chase for the constructors' crown.
Ordinarily, Red Bull would be tipped to dominate the British Grand Prix given its crushing performance in the race last year, but then McLaren was similarly anticipated to rule the roost in Valencia and didn't. This time, it will be the latter bringing a significant upgrade package along for its car – with the MP4-25 set to benefit from an RBR-inspired exhaust-blown rear end, reckoned to provide a considerable lap time advantage – and team principal Whitmarsh hopes that could just give the Woking-based outfit the vital edge it needs to inch ahead on home turf. The confidence is palpable.
“It is an important race for us,” the Englishman acknowledged. “At a circuit like that, we have to be competitive with Red Bull if we are going to be able to beat them this year. If we can be competitive there, we have a good chance to win both championships. It will be a big race, but it is not the end of it – whatever happens. If we beat them, they will not stand still; if they beat us, we are not going to stand still. I hope it will be close, and certainly closer than last year.
“As we stand at the halfway mark in the season, I'm incredibly pleased with the way the team is currently operating. There's a real grit and determination at work – you can feel it when you walk in the garage. We've created our own internal momentum, and it's extremely rewarding to see how everyone is pulling together for the greater good.
“In the past three races, we've scored 119 points from a possible maximum of 129 – an incredible statistic that tells you a lot about our hunger to fight at the front. It's the way great teams work, and I've rarely seen the team as single-minded – from factory floor to racetrack – as it is right now.
“Our home race at Silverstone has a special significance for all of us, and it would make the whole team tremendously proud if either Jenson or Lewis were able to stand atop the podium on Sunday afternoon. Such a result would be the highlight of our season so far.”