McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has admitted that the 2011 season hasn't been good enough for the Woking-based squad, but has warned Red Bull that his team is ready to 'turn the tables on the them in 2012'.
With one race still to go in Brazil, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have both won on three occasions, but the stunning campaign enjoyed by title winner Sebastian Vettel has left McLaren to settle for second place in the constructors' championship.
That in itself could be seen as something of an achievement given the problems McLaren faced in pre-season with a car that was well off the pace and lacked reliability, but Whitmarsh insisted the team couldn't be happy at failing to secure championship honours.
“No it is not,” he told the official F1 website when asked if second place was good enough. “But you have to say that Sebastian, Red Bull, and Adrian Newey did a fantastic job. Sebastian in particular did a spectacular job. But we are not here to come in second, so inevitably we are not satisfied with this. We've secured second place in the constructors' championship and we are second in the drivers' championship, but it's a frustrating position to be in to be honest. We were second last year as well and we definitely don't want to make it a habit. Now we could look back and ponder about it or we can turn it into positive motivation.
“We have had six great wins this year and we can even make it seven great wins this year - and that's the goal - so we are focusing on that. We will try and win again in Brazil. Sebastian will again clearly be the guy to beat even if he was unlucky in Abu Dhabi.
“There are a lot of views about the invincibility of Red Bull. Certainly Mark is a very good driver. People keep asking us how we plan to beat Red Bull but on most weekends we do beat 50 per cent of them. Unfortunately, right now, we are not beating the other one if he stays in the race! As a team we've made some mistakes. We haven't done as good a job as I like us to do but hopefully we will end the season with another win. Then we press the reset button, spend a few weeks away in the winter and next year is another year.
“We, of course, want to win both championships - and both our drivers want to win. We are working very hard to get there next year, but there's been a bit of uncertainty over the technical regulations. I think that DRS has worked very well, Pirelli have made some very interesting tyres and despite the dominance of Sebastian we have had some great races. We are looking forward to turning the tables on them in 2012.”
Looking at the year as a whole, Whitmarsh added that there wasn't one single point where things went awry for his team, with McLaren – and the rest – playing catch up with Red Bull throughout 2011.
“Sadly there is never a simple answer, a single incident or a singular issue,” he said. “We had a disastrous winter where we were seconds off the pace and the truth is that our first long run - a run of a race distance - was the Australian Grand Prix. We did a little bit of a Houdini in the weeks leading into the first race where we took some chances and regained some semblance of competitiveness. From there we - to an extent - guessed what we needed to do to bring about real competitiveness.
“What we had at the first race was more or less a first shot at a different concept and I had hoped that we could optimise it quite quickly over the coming few races. In truth it took us a few races longer to find something better. I think that Adrian and Red Bull had been working very hard on the blown exhaust phenomena - and they had head start. We've been chasing them and we've tried to close the gap. I would say that three quarters of the way into season we had a few races where we had a faster car but we couldn't capitalise on it.
“As this is also a development race, we are certainly a lot closer to them than we were in February. Red Bull have done a very good job. We were behind them, Ferrari have been a bit behind us, and the rest have been quite far behind. This is probably the story of the 2011 season.”