McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale has predicted that the fight for the 2010 F1 title will remain close through the remainder of the season – and could come down to a straight development race between the leading teams.
McLaren led the way heading into the Hungarian Grand Prix, but a disappointing performance at the Hungaroring allowed Red Bull to jump to the head of the constructors' championship and saw Mark Webber move ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' title race.
While some teams – such as Mercedes – are switching focus to 2011, McLaren will continue to push hard with the MP4-25 and Neale admitted that development would be key to deciding who wins the crown at the end of the year.
“It's a very close championship at this stage,” he said during the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. “We underperformed in Hungary. The gap to Ferrari and Red Bull was significant. But in the races coming up it will be a straight development race, as we knew it would be at the beginning of the year, with a number of drivers being very close.
“Clearly at the moment, if you look at the performance that came out in Hungary and consider the performance gap we had there, then going back to a circuit that had the same characteristics would be slightly concerning. But we're working very hard to do something about that.
“I suspect it will be one of those long development races and we will be, if we are as close as we are at this stage, expecting to take an upgrade package to the last race.”
Neale added that the mood within the Woking-based team was good heading to Belgium this weekend and said the team was fully focused on trying to secure victory.
“I think we're up for it,” he said. “I've been racing for about ten years and I think every time we go to Spa following Hungary the first thing all the drivers notice is the lack of downforce and the speed of the circuit. I'm sure by Friday lunchtime we'll all be scratching our heads trying to work out what's the car, what's the circuit. It will be a case of trying to get as much track time as we can to do our development testing between any dry periods that might emerge.
“I don't think any of the races are make or break at this stage. We were disappointed by failing to get Lewis to the end of the race last time and we have been looking very carefully to what is going on inside our transmission. Every race is important and it will be a very close end to the season. We want to win it as much as anybody so we'll rise to the challenge.”