In addition to the satisfaction of seeing McLaren's latest development package move the team back towards the front of the F1 field in Germany, Martin Whitmarsh admitted that he was relieved to witness Jenson Button's apparent return to form.

The Briton had struggled to piece together a string of results after finishing second the Chinese Grand Prix back in April, adding just seven points in six races to take his tally to 50 for the first half of the season, but returned to form with second place behind Fernando Alonso at Hockenheim as the MP4-27 showed signs of being more to his liking. Whilst still only seventh in the standings and some 86 points off Alonso's overall lead, Button again showed promise on the opening day of the Hungarian Grand Prix, taking second spot in FP1 and remaining among the leading group during the mixed condition second outing.

"If you are a racing driver, and a racing driver in a team like McLaren or Ferrari, you're going to come under quite a lot of scrutiny," Whitmarsh reflected, "It's very different. You can turn up as a rookie in some other teams and there's pressure because you're in F1 but, I think, if you're in McLaren, whoever you are, same if you're in Ferrari, year in, year out, if you're not qualifying on the front two rows of the grid, then there's quite a large enquiry afterwards and all sorts of pressure ensues.

"I think Jenson hasn't lost his skills, he's had one great win this year, he's very, very fit and very, very committed and I was delighted for him that he's back on form and I'm sure he'll be strong this weekend."

Both Button and team-mate Lewis Hamilton appeared to be contenders in Germany until the latter was hobbled by a third lap puncture, and the MP4-27 was the car to have on the opening day in Budapest just five days later, leading Whitmarsh to express optimism for the weekend ahead despite admitting that McLaren's development programme had been slowed by the wet weather that had affected recent races.

"You're not pleased until you're scoring maximum points, [but] I think we've made some progress," he noted, "This year has been a very difficult-to-predict championship, as it's been tyre dominated. You can work very hard on your car but, if you can't turn the tyres on, then you're in trouble. We've seen that a few times on our car - too often - and we've seen it on a few other cars. That's a great challenge for everyone.

"It's certainly difficult now that we don't test. If you bring a whole package of upgrades to the car, Friday morning P1 [is] typically our only test session, and, if it's wet, then it rather handicaps that test. It's been difficult. I think we've made some progress and we will continue to do so. We had a reasonably big package of upgrades in Germany and we have a few bits and pieces here as well. You do what you can.

"We've had a remarkable run of run of rain in the practice sessions so far this year, [so] it would be nice to get some steady, dry conditions where the engineers can work more easily. But it's the same for everyone. Everyone, to varying degrees, is trying to develop and improve the car and that's part of the challenge. Sometimes you've got a great data set and you can go forward with confidence and other times you have to make a decision on a limited data set and in some ways that's more interesting. The engineers don't like it, but it's more interesting when you have to take a bit of a flyer.

"I think it's going to be a very exciting championship. You've got to say Fernando and Ferrari have done a great job to be where they are, but there are still 430 on the board, to be taken, and I'm sure ourselves, Red Bull, all these teams here, will be trying our best to pull back that advantage."

Whitmarsh, of course, will also be hoping to make progress on another front over the summer break, namely tying Hamilton down to an extended contract so that both team and driver can focus on their championship challenge once the action resumes in Belgium at the end of August.

"I think that if you don't sign long-term contracts with drivers it becomes a big point of discussion and distraction for most of the season," he noted, "I think the driver is still an important component - fortunately - in this sport, and I think people like to have some stability there. I don't think there's a contradiction. They've got to work in the team, they've got to motivate those people around them. They make a big contribution. We don't always tell them that when we're negotiating with them but that happens to be the case."


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment