McLaren went into the extended F1 2012 August break with a definite improvement in their form, with a second place for Jenson Button in Germany followed by victory for Lewis Hamilton in Hungary. Now the aim is to ensure that the momentum carries forward into the back-to-back races at Spa and Monza.

"We had a couple of good races before the break and since then we've continued to push hard to develop our car," said team principal Martin Whitmarsh. "We have passed the halfway point of the season but it's incredibly open.

"Fernando and Ferrari have done a good job, but with nine races to go and with the performance that we were showing going into the break we should be focused on winning more races and on the championships," he added. "Everyone recognises they are wide open and we are certainly in contention."

Whitmarsh admitted that after McLaren had "came out of the box fairly quickly" with victory at the 2012 season opener for Button, they had "arguably slipped a little bit behind" but were now right back on it.

However, just as was the case with every other team on pit lane, the plans that the team had for Spa were thrown into disarray when the Friday practice session was essentially washed out.

"It's hardly surprising to be here in Spa and find that the weather is cold, wet and misty," signed Whitmarsh. "Unfortunately, that means that F1's much anticipated return after the summer break has been effectively pushed back by 24 hours because none of the drivers were able to set representative times out there today."

The tem did get some morning running which allowed them to evaluate the performance of the latest aerodynamic upgrades and to check tyre performance, but that was about it and the afternoon was essentially written-off.

"With the field so closely covered, even the tiniest scrap of data can be useful," Whitmarsh insisted.

"There's no real benefit to be gained from pushing the car, but there are always things we can learn," agreed Lewis Hamilton. "We did a couple of installation laps to check the effects of the upgrades we've brought to this race and see how the tyres switch on in the wet.

"It's been incredibly wet today - there were lots of rivers running across the track and lots of aquaplaning, so you had to be very wary out there," he continued. "It's going to be challenging tomorrow, but everyone is in the same boat - no joke intended! If it dries out, the track will be green in the morning, so you'll be setting the car up during a couple of runs in FP3."

"Hopefully, the worst conditions have blown over and we can get down to business tomorrow," agreed Jenson Button. "It's been such a long break that we just want to get out there and enjoy ourselves."

Button said that after the morning session which had only featured "a little bit of aquaplaning," the conditions in the afternoon had worsened rapidly and left them only able to carry out some basic in- and out-laps to practise starts.

"For most of the lap, you're not really pushing," said Button, describing the variable conditions around the 7km circuit. Then halfway down the Kemmel straight it suddenly gets wetter. It's a different type of asphalt, which doesn't drain as well. As soon as you hit that, you feel the car slow down and then it starts to spin its wheels."

At the end of the day, the best that can be said is that the cars escaped without any incidents requiring overnight attention from the pit crew, meaning that everyone will be fresh and fighting fit for Saturday's crucial track activities in the anticipated drier conditions.

Martin Whitmarsh added that there was another reason why the team was keen to do well here this weekend, on top of wanting to sustain the momentum they'd built up in July.

"Yesterday would have been the 75th birthday of our founder, Bruce McLaren, who scored McLaren's first-ever grand prix victory at this circuit back in 1968," he pointed out. "In many ways, the McLaren story is interwoven with Spa's post-war history, and it's fantastic to be here again this weekend to continue that legacy."


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