McLaren-Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh has rubbished suggestions that the battle for F1 2010 World Championship glory is now solely the preserve of Ferrari and Red Bull Racing with regard to the drivers' crown, adamant that following his runner-up finish in Sunday's inaugural Korean Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton remains 'very much in contention'.
Hamilton closed the gap separating him from the head of the title standings from 28 points to 21 in Korea, though had he not made a small mistake in running wide on the treacherous track surface at the final safety car re-start – letting eventual race-winner Fernando Alonso past – he rather than his former team-mate could have been toasting victory, and just a seven-point deficit to the Spaniard at the top of the table.
“Of course Lewis was disappointed he fell off and let Fernando through and okay, it didn't quite work out for him, but he is definitely up for racing,” Whitmarsh is quoted as having said by British newspaper The Sun
. “He still has self-confidence and self-belief, and we are still very much in contention with him.
“There has never been a better race than the one in Korea to demonstrate that anything can happen in this championship, and we have two really interesting races ahead. It really is still wide open.”
Conspicuously failing to mention Hamilton's McLaren team-mate and defending F1 World Champion Jenson Button – now all-but out-of-the-running for a second consecutive drivers' trophy at 42 markers adrift of the lead with only 50 remaining to play for – the Englishman went on to praise Ferrari's impressive end-of-season fightback and Alonso's qualities as a 'phenomenal competitor', whilst musing that in the wake of a disastrous outing in Korea, Red Bull Racing is 'under pressure'.
“Red Bull are tough to beat,” Whitmarsh reflected, “[but] errors were costly for them [in Korea], and they will feel they are under pressure. We have to make sure we're at our best, that we keep improving the car and that we minimise errors. If we do that, then there is no reason why we can't win this world championship.”