McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has said he wouldn't be surprised if Mercedes Grand Prix mounts a 'significant challenge' in 2011.

Although it was only a three-horse race for honours last season, with Red Bull Racing, Ferrari and McLaren monopolising things at the head of the pack, Whitmarsh reckons F1 2011 could be a lot more competitive.

"The 2010 season could be said to have been a three-team race [between ourselves, Red Bull and Ferrari] and undoubtedly it was a very exciting one. I wouldn't be at all surprised [though] if 2011 were to involve those three teams - and others besides," Whitmarsh told the official F1 website when asked if Mercedes might make it a 'big four' this year.

"You've mentioned Mercedes-Benz - and we at McLaren know all too well, having worked closely with them since 1995, what a powerful and effective racing force they are. Equally, Ross Brawn and his team, plus Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, are very impressive too.

"So it would be no surprise to see them mounting a more significant challenge in 2011 than they did in 2010.

"We never underestimate our opposition and we're sure they're working every bit as hard as we are."

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