McLaren-Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh has insisted that the Woking-based outfit's bid for F1 2010 World Championship glory 'is still very much alive' despite both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton finishing off the podium in the Japanese Grand Prix – but he concedes that it will only remain so if reliability is '100 per cent'.
Button and Hamilton have slipped to respectively 31 and 28 points adrift of Mark Webber at the top of the drivers' standings following their fourth and fifth-place finishes at Suzuka, with McLaren 45 markers shy of Red Bull Racing in the constructors' battle – and time fast running out to close the gap.
Hamilton's efforts in particular have been hindered in recent outings by major gearbox woes that hastened his retirement in Hungary just before the mid-summer break, earned the 2008 F1 World Champion a five-place grid drop in Japan and then restricted him to P5 in the race last weekend, after his new 'box lost third gear.
Whitmarsh recognises that with just 75 points now remaining up for grabs in Korea, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, getting to the chequered flag without any issues will be of pivotal importance – but the Englishman stresses that provided they can finish the races, Hamilton and Button have the talent and the car underneath them with which to lift the ultimate laurels.
“For the final three races, we've got to make sure we have 100 per cent reliability,” the 52-year-old underlined. “Lewis finished this race 28 points behind the leader in the drivers' championship, with Jenson trailing by 31. With 75 points to play for in the drivers' championship, and 129 in the constructors', our title challenge is still very much alive.
“The biggest positive we can take away from this result is that both drivers clearly demonstrated significant pace against that of our rivals – and that's a motivating force that we'll take with us into the final three races of the championship.
“We'll keep on pushing and developing this car. There's no reason why we can't be fighting for the championship in Abu Dhabi. We will be throwing everything at the remaining races, and it is still all in play. Until it can't be done, you keep pushing.
“Jenson and Lewis are two great drivers. They have both been world champion, and they know that you have got to fight to the end. They will be just as motivated when we get to Korea, and if we have a fast car they will be up there.”