McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has confirmed that Jenson Button won't be asked to play second fiddle to team-mate Lewis Hamilton's championship bid, despite being taken out of the Belgian Grand Prix at the weekend.
The reigning champion currently sits 35 points adrift of the man he replaced at the top of the F1 tree, with Hamilton extending his advantage by winning at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday, but both he and Whitmarsh -and even Hamilton - believe that he still has a genuine shot at the title himself, with 150 points available over six races.
"I was with them [just after the race] and Jenson was saying to Lewis 'I'm 35 points behind you, but I'm still going to nail you'," Whitmarsh told Britain's Telegraph
newspaper, "That's the way it should be.
"Jenson was very unlucky [in Belgium]. He should have scored good points in Spa and be right up there. Things can change very quickly."
The policy of allowing both drivers to race each other has long been a McLaren tradition, but has not always proved successful, with Red bull's attempts to follow suit in 2009 denying Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel the chance to cut into Button's championship lead. Whitmarsh, however, isn't concerned because he believes that the Milton Keynes team will be slow to give its backing to Webber, despite the Australian holding a 28-point advantage over his German colleague.
"He is mathematically the closest, he is a strong driver and he is driving well, so he has got to be the main opposition," he said of Webber, "but I think they quite like their younger driver, so I doubt they will put their weight behind Mark."
Hamilton, meanwhile, insists that, having claimed his third win of the season in imperious fashion, he won't need his team-mate to back his bid.
"As long as my guys do their job, which they always do, then I don't need anything else," he maintained.
While the next race, at Monza in two weeks' time, is thought to favour McLaren's MP4-25, the remaining circuits could bend the advantage back towards Red Bull - unless the revised tests for front wing and floor have an effect on the team's performance, as Button believes was the case at Spa.
"I think the circuit suited us at Spa, and that Red Bull's pace was affected by the new tests," the 2009 champion said, "I hope the new, even more stringent, tests for Monza will have even more of an effect. [Red Bull] say they won't have to change anything, but they said that here. Watching the car here on the track, it was definitely not flexing as much."