The McLaren team is confident that the reliability issue that sidelined Jenson Button in the Italian Grand Prix won't happen again, despite being unable to get to the bottom of the problem.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh admits that engineers back at McLaren's Woking base are still scratching their heads as they attempt to piece together the causes of the lap 34 fuel pump failure that forced Button out of second place, and ended dreams of a 1-2 finish for the squad at Monza. Race winner Lewis Hamilton's car was unaffected during a straightforward run to victory, but the DNF - his first of the year - effectively ended Button's hopes of launching a late title challenge.

"This is very unusual in my experience," Whitmarsh told Sky Sports' F1 Show as McLaren continued its preparations for this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix,
"I can't recall, in the last few years, where we haven't been able to get to the bottom of [a problem]. What we do know is that there were 50 kilos of fuel in the car, but it wasn't where we wanted it - ie being put into the engine."

With both cars being completely rebuilt between Monza and Marina Bay, Whitmarsh is confident that there will be no repeat of the Monza problem.

"It's a fuel system where the fundamental design hasn't changed for five years, it's very complex," the team boss explained, "As you would imagine, there won't be one single component that was used in [the Monza] car in Jenson's car for Singapore so, in all probability, we will never see [the same problem] again. But that's not quite as satisfying as saying 'actually, we know exactly what it was'."

Hamilton's Monza success was McLaren's fifth win of the year, and the third in a row for a team that appeared to be in danger of dropping behind both Mercedes and Lotus in the F1 pecking order during a mid-season slump. However, despite back-to-back wins in Hungary, Belgium and Italy, Whitmarsh refuses to get carried away when discussing the team's chances in Singapore this weekend.

"To have three in a row in yesteryear, I think we'd be fairly confident and be saying 'that's three in a row, the rest if going to be a breeze - we are going to erode the lead of those ahead of us and we'll be easy champions at the end of the year'. Sadly, the season's a bit more complex than that.

"We ought to be every bit as confident as anyone going to Singapore, but you've still got that doubt on Friday, even through to probably arriving in Q1. You're still wondering 'are we actually competitive this weekend', or 'can we actually switch these tyres on, can we actually perform?'."

With Hamilton still 37 points behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in the championship standings, Whitmarsh knows that beating the Spaniard and finishing on the podium was the most preferable outcome this weekend.

"He can be caught, clearly," he said of Alonso, "but he's doing a fantastic job. People will probably acknowledge that he hasn't had the quickest car on very many occasions, yet he's established a great points lead. He's a driver who, just when you think he's had a penalty, or he's uncompetitive, towards the end of the race you think 'damn it, he's there again and he's scoring points'. That's the quality of the guy. I think he's driving better than he ever has in his career."

Despite his praise for the Ferrari man, Whitmarsh nevertheless remains optimistic that Hamilton, in particular, can eat into the points deficit over the remaining seven rounds.

"[Alonso's] very focused, so not easy to beat, but winning world championships shouldn't be easy," he concluded, "However, I think we can overhaul him. I think we've got a quicker car, and we're going to work damn hard at it."


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