Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber might have conceded the drivers' crown, and Ferrari might have admitted defeat in the constructors' battle, but McLaren Racing managing director Jonathan Neale has stressed that with six grands prix remaining in F1 2011, it is still 'too early to bail out' on the title chase – and that 'there will certainly be no lifting at this end'.
It is possible – unlikely, perhaps, but nonetheless mathematically possible – that runaway F1 2011 pace-setter Sebastian Vettel could successfully complete the defence of his hard-fought 2010 world championship laurels in Singapore this weekend, and should he do so, then his employer Red Bull Racing would arguably not be too far behind in putting the destiny of the constructors' trophy similarly beyond reach.
That has prompted second-placed Alonso to lament that 'the title has gone now', Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Webber to reflect that the rest are 'effectively fighting for second place' and Ferrari to call time on the development of its F150° Italia in favour of diverting all of its efforts towards the car's successor.
Jenson Button, however, has insisted that even though 'there's no chance' of pipping Vettel to glory this year, 'it won't change anything' since 'we are racers, competitive... [and] still want to win every race' – and McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton has echoed those sentiments in asserting that he 'will never give up' and will be 'driving to win as always'.
Pointing to the benefit of the arrival at the team of former Williams technical director Sam Michael – a man with 'a wealth of experience' in the top flight – as sporting director, Neale cautions that F1 is not 'a game of being risk-averse', and underlines that the key for next season will be to 'start with a car that is quick and reliable from the outset'. Regardless of the odds, he assures, there is no intention of letting-up inside the corridors at Woking.
“We sit here having amassed a number of race wins and having put up at times a very credible fight,” he mused, speaking during a special pre-Singapore Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Phone-In Session, “and we will continue to do that until the end of the season. Of course, we would like to be where Vettel finds himself at the moment, and hats off to Adrian [Newey – RBR chief technical officer] for not only the raw pace of that car but also the consistency Red Bull have found this year.
“Obviously we look to ourselves to do a better job. It's very, very easy to slip and we are dissatisfied when we're not winning – but we must continue taking risks, and we have made some changes internally and strengthened the team. F1 is about innovation and slick execution, and the aim is to be good in every area.
“I'm pretty sure Red Bull Racing would be disappointed if they didn't win the championship given the advantage they have at the moment – but there are six more races, which are six more opportunities to win. Winning is why we are here – and that means races as well as championships.
“Lots of teams could look back and think, 'if only...' That's the nature of the sport, and you have to roll with it – it's the same every year. We are not in any way disheartened or downbeat. We are determined to win races between now and the end of the year.
“Of course the emphasis within the team is starting to move as a necessity. With such a long race season that goes until the end of November, it's not possible to put 100 per cent of your resources into the programme for this year without doing something for next year – so despite the fact that our colleagues at Ferrari have said they've stopped developing this year's car, much of the development you do on this year's car can carry over to next year's car.
“It's an evolutionary set of regulations going into 2012, which calls for a continuous research and design programme. It's still very possible to put performance on this year's car whilst generating know-how for next year's car. It's too early for us to bail out completely [on F1 2011]. There will certainly be no lifting at this end.”