23 October 2010
Whitmarsh adds to mind games in RBR battle
Far from conceding this year's F1 world championship to his main rival, McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh hopes that the pressure will tell on Red Bull.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has taken a leaf out of 2010 recruit Jenson Button's book by ramping up the mind games with title rival Red Bull Racing ahead of the Korean Grand Prix.
Button has enjoyed several good-natured digs at friend and points leader Mark Webber, comparing the Australian's situation to his own a year ago when he had to withstand pressure at the head of the standings, and Whitmarsh has picked up on the thread by suggesting that Red Bull's destiny is entirely in its own hands - before questioning how shaky those hands may be.
The Milton Keynes team not only has Webber atop the drivers' standings, it has a resurgent Sebastian Vettel up to within 14 points of the Australian, and also enjoys a 45-point lead in the constructors' table. The right combination of results in Yeongam, namely a 1-2 finish without McLaren scoring, would give RBR its first teams' title, but Webber will have to wait until at least Brazil in a fortnight's time to secure the individual crown, provided he can keep Vettel and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso at bay.
McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, meanwhile, are 28 and 31 points adrift with three races to go - having been 1-2 in the standings after Germany - and could, to all intents and purposes, see their championship hopes extinguished if they don't return to the podium this weekend. That, however, hasn't prevented Whitmarsh from indulging in a little verbal joust with Red Bull.
"I think it would be tough to take for Red Bull to lose the championship now," he suggested to Britain's Guardian newspaper, before emphasising the flaws that could yet cost McLaren's rival.
"If you look at the number of races where Red Bull have had the quickest qualifying car, they're ahead of ourselves and Ferrari," he admitted, "but they can be disappointed that they've allowed us to out-race them on quite a few occasions. That will be weighing on their minds as we get into the championship finale. I'm sure they feel some sense of frustration."
With McLaren currently fielding the two most recent world champions, and Alonso already having two crowns under his belt, the Red Bull line-up - both on-track and off - is the least experienced in terms of dealing with title pressure, as Whitmarsh is only to ready to point out.
"We have a lot of experience on our side, and two great drivers," he noted, "I hope it's massively important and decisive. Both our guys know what it's like when the pressure comes – even if you're leading a championship. It's very easy to get defensive and tight. Both our guys have been through that and the team has been around for a lot of world championship victories. I think that's good."
Despite his goading, however, Whitmarsh acknowledges that McLaren's campaign hasn't been perfect, and admits that the Woking team will have to perform rather than relying on the cracks beginning to show at Red Bull, especially with Alonso currently best-placed to pick up the pieces.
"Every race has had a different story, and Jenson being taken out in the middle of a race was undeniably not our fault," he insisted, "It's frustrating, but I don't spend a lot of time on that. There are 75 driver points to be taken, so it's mathematically well within our grasp.
"It would be convenient and nice to believe that the comparative lack of experience at finishing off a championship at Red Bull, both for the team and drivers, was going to be decisive, but I don't think I can rely upon that, unfortunately."
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