As they strive to keep their respective title chances alive heading into the final three races of the F1 2010 World Championship campaign, McLaren-Mercedes duo Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have revealed that the Woking-based outfit is 'pushing the envelope' in terms of development and predict that the Korea International Circuit – the stage for this weekend's inaugural Korean Grand Prix – will 'reward commitment'.
Off the back of a run of troubled races in recent weeks – comprising three failures to finish from five outings and a disastrous Suzuka weekend for Hamilton, and just a single podium finish since Silverstone for Button – the 2008 F1 World Champion currently sits 28 points adrift of leader Mark Webber in the chase for the coveted crown, with his countryman and title-winning successor three markers further in arrears.
Conventional wisdom goes that time is now beginning to run out for the all-British pairing to haul themselves back into the reckoning for glory, with McLaren's MP4-25 having been very much just the third force in both Singapore and Japan – but both are adamant that they can claw back ground in the race that represents the greatest unknown on the 2010 calendar.
“It's always exciting visiting a new circuit for the first time,” underlined Button. “The Korean track certainly looks very interesting – a real mix of different characteristics – and there appear to be a couple of very likely opportunities for overtaking, particularly at the end of the three main straights, but possibly also off-line in the twisty final sector. The track looks quite high-speed and the walls are close, so I think it will be an interesting challenge.
“As with any new circuit, it looks like it might throw up a few unexpected issues – not necessarily on the racetrack itself – but I'm sure the teams and drivers will work together with the organisers to make sure the event is a complete success.
“We've made some improvements to the parts we tested at Suzuka, and it's looking likely that we'll run the new parts on Friday in Korea. As with all our upgrades, we are pushing the envelope, so I'm optimistic that the tests will be positive and that we'll be able to race the new components.”
“I've driven the Korea International Circuit on the simulator, and my first impressions were extremely positive,” concurred Hamilton. “On paper, the track should suit our car quite well – the first sector is all about good end-of-straight speed and strong performance under heavy braking, both key characteristics of our car.
“The middle sector is fast-and-flowing; it's the kind of place where you want a car with a good balance and good downforce. I think it will reward commitment – it actually feels like quite a nice drivers' track. The end of the lap is slower and tighter, but it's still all about rhythm and flow, so as long as the track surface is nice and grippy, I think we're set for an enjoyable first race in Korea.
“I'm looking forward to the weekend – I think we can have a positive race. While recent results haven't necessarily shown it, we've had a strong car – now I'm hoping to get the chance to prove it on-track.”