McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh insists that, despite the need to turn attention to next season, the Woking squad will keep striving for better results through to the 2013 F1 finale in Brazil.
Speaking in the build-up to this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Whitmarsh pointed to the performance in India last Sunday as reason for optimism, with Sergio Perez finishing a battling fifth - ahead of Lewis Hamilton – one of the highlights of a sparse campaign that has yet to yield a podium appearance for either the Mexican or team-mate Jenson Button.
Although it has no chance of improving on its current fifth place in the constructors' standings, Whitmarsh knows that McLaren could still come under threat from either Force India or Sauber before the end of the season, and intends to ensure that both Button and Perez have the ability to fight for points at each of the final three rounds.
“With the drivers' world championship now settled, it's only natural that F1's collective focus should start turning towards 2014,” Whitmarsh commented, “However, there are three fantastic grands prix remaining this year, and, buoyed by a respectable result in India last weekend, we'll be looking to ensure that we continue to maximise our performance at each of those last three rounds.
“In Jenson and 'Checo', we have two excellent team-spirited drivers who have motivated the entire workforce with their never-say-die attitude to this difficult season. Despite their contrasting fortunes in India last week, both guys showed the attitude and determination to fight hard from the race's start to its finish. They have been an inspiration, often in adverse circumstances, and, in turn, the whole team is working hard to provide them with the machinery with which they can keep pushing until the very last lap of the very last race.”
After posting his best result of the season, Perez is looking forward to getting back on track as quickly as possible.
“I think that the Indian Grand Prix was my strongest performance of the season so far, and a good example of what I feel I'm capable of when I have a solid car beneath me, and the opportunity to push and press my opponents,” the youngster confirmed, “I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend, so you won't be surprised to hear that I'll be aiming to carry that momentum over into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“After several races of poor luck, it was great to reverse that trend in India and now I'll be looking for another strong finish to carry me into my 'home' race in Austin next month. I would love to be able to give my 'home' fans something extra to cheer about…”
McLaren has a decent record in Abu Dhabi, winning the race in 2011 with Lewis Hamilton, while Button has finished on the podium three times. One of only five anti-clockwise circuits on this year's calendar, the asphalt is very smooth, which makes it kind on tyres, and wear rates are further reduced by the cooler track temperatures experienced after sunset. There is usually a lot of track evolution during the race, which the team hopes will help Button and Perez preserve the soft and medium compound Pirellis as they did in India.
“I think the whole team ought to feel encouraged by our pace in India last weekend,” Button insisted, “Although the race didn't come together for me, our overall speed and consistency were the strongest they've been all season, and, as always, the race team delivered on all fronts to ensure that, strategically and logistically, we lost nothing to our rivals.
“We'll certainly be taking that momentum into Abu Dhabi this weekend. While it's a very different type of track – the final sector is much more stop-start and reliant on a strong mechanical balance – I've always enjoyed racing around the Yas Marina circuit and I think we can once again score points to consolidate our position in the constructors' world championship.
“Now that the drivers' world championship has been conclusively settled, I think the F1 community will enjoy these last three races. While we'll be competing with one another as fiercely as ever, we'll also be treating our last three outings as opportunities to develop and understand the package we'll take into the 2014 season. For me, that's exciting: I'll be looking forward to providing my input to ensure we end the year in as strong a position as possible, so as to be as well prepared for the new challenges of 2014 as we can be.”