McLaren will continue to refine its pair of MP4-23s ahead of next weekend's Belgian Grand Prix as it attempts to keep pace with Ferrari in the Formula One world championship battle.

Although Lewis Hamilton continues to lead the pack - having managed to increase his lead by a single point in each of the last two races despite not winning either - Felipe Massa, in particular, has appeared to have the upper hand, being robbed of certain victory in Hungary when his engine blew three laps from home and then cruising to the win in Valencia last weekend.

Massa's retirement in Budapest and that of Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in Spain has underlined just how close the frontrunning teams are running the line between success and failure as they chase the crown, but McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh is confident that the Woking outfit will be able to withstand the pressure at the forthcoming high-speed tracks at Spa and Monza.

"The reality is that we have tremendous faith in our colleagues at Mercedes-Benz and feel comfortable with both our engine's performance and reliability," he said in the build-up to the Belgian race, "The recent engine failures suffered by Ferrari in Hungary and Valencia clearly demonstrate that even a homologated engine can break, so we take nothing for granted. There's always an element of risk whenever you come to two fast and demanding circuits, but we have the additional security of knowing both our drivers can each still suffer an engine failure without receiving a ten-place grid penalty."

While Ferrari has had to play its 'joker' in terms of the free engine replacement permitted to each driver this season, neither Hamilton or Heikki Kovalainen has suffered in that regard in the twelve races so far and can afford to press on in the remaining rounds.

Ferrari, meanwhile, has also come under pressure to improve its systems off the track, with Massa escaping sanction for a close call on pit-road in Valencia and Raikkonen flooring one of his crew after a botched exit on his second stop. Whitmarsh accepts that this is the point in the season where pressure begins to exert its biggest toll on those in contention for honours, but insists that McLaren will not fall prey to mistakes, especially after the 2007 championship run-in that left Hamilton and Fernando Alonso wondering just how Raikkonen stole the world title from under their noses.

"We're focusing on further mistake-proofing our systems," Whitmarsh confirmed, "The championship is going to be a hard-fought slog until the end of the year, and we need to leave no stone unturned in our quest for additional performance and improved reliability.

"We've got a number of smaller aero developments in the pipeline - there's nothing on the car that will be visually very startling, but there's plenty of detail-work. However, from a human and physical perspective, these two races [at Spa and Monza] are pivotal to our title challenge, so it's vital that every member of the team pulls together to make sure these races pass without undue incident and set us up nicely for the final flyaway races."


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