McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has said that he does not expect McLaren to automatically return to winning ways when the F1 season picks up again in China next weekend.
Speaking during the three-week break between events, Whitmarsh admitted that, while he would like to see Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton lock out the front row for a third race running, and then go on to take a second win of the season for the Woking equipe
, they could not afford to write off the likes of Red Bull, Mercedes or even Ferrari, which took a surprise win last time out in Malaysia, as Fernando Alonso coped best with the changeable conditions.
"Make no mistake, we're acutely aware that our rivals won't have stood still during the past three weeks," he noted, knowing that Red Bull, in particular, will have been stung by being knocked off the number one spot.
"We've certainly been extremely busy, too, but we don't take anything for granted. If the overall competitive order was a little hard to read in the first two races, I have no doubt that it will start to become clearer next weekend, and I strongly believe that, once again, it will be closely fought at the front."
On McLaren's side heading to China is the team's record at the Shanghai International Circuit, where it has won three times, including with both of its current drivers in the past two years. However, the team is coming off a disappointing Malaysian Grand Prix where, despite Hamilton and Button filling the front row for the second race in succession, it was left to settle for another third place courtesy of the former after wet weather and a clash with Narain Karthikeyan accounted for Button's challenge.
"While there are mixed feelings to have only been able to convert two all-front-row starting positions into one race win, everybody here feels extremely encouraged by our pace in the first two grands prix of the season," he pointed out.
"The Chinese Grand Prix is a race in which we've traditionally gone very well - we've won three of the past four races here, all of which have come through faultless performances from Jenson and Lewis - and we head to Shanghai this year keen to add to that tally."