McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale insists that the team will be able to challenge towards the front in the British Grand Prix this weekend, with its disappointing performance in Valencia last time out being a 'blip'.
The team were unable to challenge either Red Bull or Ferrari in the race with Lewis Hamilton finishing fourth and Jenson Button down in sixth place – with both drivers more than 45 seconds behind race winner Sebastian Vettel.
The 20 points scored in the European Grand Prix equalled McLaren's worst points haul from a race this season – matching the total picked up in Turkey back in May – but Neale insisted that the result wasn't a sign that the Woking-based outfit has taken a backwards step in the title race.
Indeed, Neale said he fully expected Hamilton and Button to fight towards the front in their home race this weekend despite the diffuser changes being implemented by the FIA from Silverstone onwards.
“I don't think we delivered to our full potential there,” he said. “I am certainly regarding it as a blip. Other teams have made some steps forward but that's the nature of the sport. If you let your guard down for a moment in this game then in the top quarter of the grid the race to upgrade is ferocious and you end up with others nipping at your heels, so you pay a price for it. But I'm not in any way disheartened or dissuaded from our ability to be at the front at Silverstone.
“We are really looking forward to Silverstone - a high-speed circuit, two British world champions, it's a home Grand Prix and there's a huge amount of excitement in the build-up to it. After Goodwood last weekend, you can really feel the British motorsport season taking off. We've got an upgrade for the car and the aerodynamic package will be improved. But I guess the technical landscape will be pretty much dominated by what happens to everyone's cars with the changes to the technical regulations on engine loads.
“Colleagues in other teams are already speculating about that in the media. There's no doubt it's going to affect all of the top teams. It's definitely going to affect us and Red Bull have said it will affect them. The key question is who is it going to affect more? I don't think we're really going to know that until Saturday afternoon, so I'm not going to speculate on that. But it will certainly have quite a big impact on everybody. So to return to the question, we've learnt from the lessons past and we'll test that when we come to circuits of a similar style to Valencia. And the guys should be optimistic because I think we've got some great upgrades for this weekend.”
Neale added that McLaren isn't giving up hope of hauling Red Bull in in the standings despite the current advantage held by the defending champions, with the team having already shown the pace to beat its rival earlier this season.
“There is still a long way to go in this season,” he said. “Red Bull have had a dominant package but the only other team to have won a race has been us - and we've won two of them. And we're fighting very hard for them. I think the uncertainty which has been raised by the recent engine regulation changes will make it really interesting this weekend and could open the season up. We're working very hard. We want to win more races and this championship and it's way too early to admit defeat.
“If anybody plots the underlying qualifying pace and race pace then you'd see that we are catching Red Bull. They still have had an advantage in qualifying but our rivals have been on record in the media as recognising that we have had a faster car at a few races and we'll continue to keep that pressure up. They've certainly had a qualifying advantage and that's the thing we have to work on much harder.”