McLaren-Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh has insisted that there will continue to be absolute parity between Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton in F1 2010 and that the former is a long way from settling back into a supporting role – as he pointed to the exhaust-blown rear end situation at Silverstone as an example of the Woking-based outfit's commitment to equality of opportunity.
McLaren ran the Red Bull Racing-inspired blown rear end on its MP4-25 during British Grand Prix practice just under a fortnight ago, but following major balance issues and difficulty in extracting the best out of its new aerodynamic appendage – an addition that it had been hoped would significantly boost the performance of the car on home turf – it was removed again prior to qualifying, against Hamilton's wishes.
That, Whitmarsh contends, was proof of just how determined the team is to ensure that both of its drivers receive absolutely equal treatment.
“Inevitably, you want to bring performance to the car as quickly as you can,” the Englishman reflected in a special pre-Hockenheim Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Phone-In session. “I don't regret taking the blown diffuser or running it on the Friday. We were developing it for the German Grand Prix, and we wanted it to be available to both drivers. We try to stress equality, and our aim was to get as much data whilst making sure we were treating both drivers as equally as we could.
“Obviously it was a 'new' circuit, with some entertaining bumps in the new section – and in the old section too, presumably from construction traffic. It was gusty as well, and [the blown diffuser] is not something that you can take on or off the car during the course of a practice session or even in-between sessions.
“I think we got some good information, and there was a view inside the team on the Sunday that we could have left it on the car and still been able to perform, but we were conscious of the need to ensure we scored as many points as possible. The decision was taken on the Friday to eliminate one of the variables, and on the Saturday we ran the car with the non-blown diffuser, which was useful in itself to compare against the data generated the day before.
“I think we did the right thing, I'm comfortable with that and we are going into Hockenheim with more information. We have made some modifications in the light of the data we accumulated, and we will run the blown diffuser on Friday. I suspect we will have it on for the whole weekend – we will make the call on Friday evening.”
Whitmarsh went on to praise Button's gritty performance on race day at Silverstone, after the defending F1 World Champion had found himself all-at-sea and down in a desultory 14th place post-qualifying – but made up six places on the opening lap of the grand prix alone, and then a further four by dint of consistently strong pace and an audacious strategy in staying out longer than nearly all of his rivals to come within a whisker of a podium finish at the chequered flag.
That, the 52-year-old argues, is proof if ever it were needed that the man who currently trails his team-mate, compatriot and title-winning predecessor by twelve points in the chase for the coveted crown is far from ready to meekly throw in the towel and accept defeat.