A couple of months ago, it seemed that McLaren's 2014 driver line-up had been decided and that all that remained was the formal press announcement. But the longer the team has extended its silence on the subject, the more questions marks, gossip and speculation have sprung up that McLaren might sprint a surprise and that retaining both current drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez might not be such a done deal after all.

When pressed on whether he was closer to making a decision about the drivers for next season, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh replied that he was.

But then he added: "I'm closer because I'm one day closer than I was yesterday and, guess what, tomorrow I will be one day closer as well!

Related Articles

"I've said all along, let's have a few races go by and then let's have a chat," he pointed out. "And that's exactly what we are going to do. There's no tearing rush to do this at the moment. I know it's an interesting story - and a whole load of spurious stories stem from it - but we are in no hurry."

Which was all Whitmarsh would say on the matter on Sunday, at the end of a weekend that had seen the F1 headlines grabbed (as Whitmarsh had himself promised they would be) by confirmation that the team had succeeded in luring Peter Prodromou back to McLaren from Red Bull, where he currently works as head of aerodynamics alongside the team's chief designer Adrian Newey.

Even on this matter, however, Whitmarsh needed to be circumspect on the details, as there are some legal matters to attend to first given that Prodromou's contract with Red Bull is thought to run through to the end of next season.

"Currently he is employed by Red Bull and we have to respect that, which is why we are not talking about timeframes," Whitmarsh admitted. "But the fact is that he has a contract and he will come to McLaren." He added that he didn't know whether Red Bull would enforce a year of 'gardening leave' on Prodromou in the meantime to avoid the leak of company secrets.

Speaking for Red Bull, team principal Christian Horner wouldn't be drawn on the specifics of what was likely to happen: "Peter is a valued member of the team, he is making a valuable contribution. We have got tremendous strength in team within the team," he said. "The content of any contract obviously is confidential but the duration of his contract runs for quite a while yet. We're certainly in no rush to release him early and he will be with the team until the end of his existing agreement."

McLaren certainly needs the boost in the technical division as soon as it can get them. After some high profile losses to other teams - Paddy Lowe moving to Mercedes earlier this year one of the biggest recent blows - the team has seriously struggled this season, with Jenson Button's ninth place in Suzuka, which in previous years would have been tantamount to a disaster, ranking as a just a normal day at the office in 2013.

"We could have been one or two places higher up but that's where we are at the moment, that's all," said Whitmarsh of Button's performance in the Japanese Grand Prix. He pointed out that Button had been caught out by being on the outside of the Sebastian Vettel/Lewis Hamilton Turn 1 clash that had cost him positions and left him with excessive vibration from a flat-spotted tyre.

"Ultimately, that struggle meant we switched to a three-stop, which wasn't going to optimum for him," Whitmarsh added. It was always going to be tough thereafter, but I think Jenson did a reasonable good coming back from that."

Button's contract extension is already widely reported to have been inked, and if anyone is under threat of not being at McLaren for the start of next season it's Sergio Perez, who had a scrappy day of it on Sunday. But Whitmarsh was quick to defend Perez, pointing out that the problems had largely been no fault of the driver.

"We had two untidy stops, where we lost a second or two apiece, which was unfortunate. And then had a puncture which turned what should have been a two-stop into a three-stop. So messy, really," he said. "I think Checo would have been the points without that puncture.

"From where we are at the moment, I think in the last two or three races he's driven very well indeed," Whitmarsh insisted. "He was racing well and without the problems he could have got seventh or eighth."

All in all it's been that sort of year of lost opportunities for McLaren, and for Whitmarsh himself. The weariness is perhaps starting to tell - as is the eagerness to get the team's annus horribilis behind them and get started on hopefully a much more productive season ahead in 2014.

One that will see Jenson Button once again paired with ... Someone. As Whitmarsh pointed out, we're one day closer to finding out the answer to that puzzle, it just won't be today. Carry on watching this space in the meantime.