McLaren-Mercedes CEO Martin Whitmarsh has revealed that the team is looking at the possibility
of running Lewis Hamilton's engine in a 'safer setting' in Brazil next weekend.
Hamilton will start in Interlagos with a seven-point cushion over Felipe Massa and after such a good run in China is clearly the favourite to take the 2008 F1 drivers' title.
However, unlike Massa - and Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen for that matter too - he won't be able to use a new V8 engine, as he had a fresh one in Shanghai. That means he will be at a slight disadvantage and one thing McLaren will want to ensure is that he can get to the chequered flag.
"For this race, we'll be looking at the possibility of running Lewis's engine in a safer setting so it has a bit more margin than normal," Whitmarsh confirmed.
"It's something we do throughout the season but, clearly, there's a greater need to be safe next weekend."
Last year Ferrari had the edge over McLaren in Sao Paulo and while that could happen again, Whitmarsh reckons it is unlikely to be the case and that things should be a lot more even.
"While Ferrari was able to out-perform us at last year's Brazilian Grand Prix, we feel relatively confident that the situation will be different this year for several reasons," he explained.
"Firstly, looking at the trends of the season, the characteristics of our car should be better suited to Interlagos than they were in 2007. Also, the weather was exceptionally warm last year - something that tends to favour Ferrari - and the chances are that it won't be quite so hot next week. These elements should create a very tight competition, which is good for everybody."
That doesn't lessen though just how an important event it is - both for Ron Dennis' men and those from Maranello and with both the drivers' and constructors' championship titles still up for grabs, the pressure couldn't be any more intense on either outfit.
"While we try and eliminate as many difficulties for the race team as is possible, there is no escaping the fact that a title-deciding race is clearly very stressful," Whitmarsh summed-up. "You're somewhat torn because the need to score four points is considerably easier than winning - but that sort of attitude is anathema to the team.
"The reality is that Shanghai was rather more stressful because we only had a five-point cushion over Felipe and that could have been seriously dented.
"Given our performance so far this year, you'd assume that Lewis would be able to score the necessary points - but that could be affected by a sudden Safety Car period or a mechanical problem. Both drivers just need to drive clean races; but reliability is the biggest stress-builder for the guys in the garage, and it is a constant worry..."