Whitmarsh: Title race still difficult to call

Whitmarsh: Title race still difficult to call

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes it is a brave man who predicts the destiny of this season’s Formula One world title.

Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel are separated by just 24 points with five races remaining, starting this weekend in Singapore.

The quintet have claimed between them the 14 race victories so far, and it is becoming more apparent the championship is destined to go down to the wire with the final grand prix in Abu Dhabi.

At present it is the most closely contested title fight since 1981, and for Whitmarsh he concedes it is the most dramatic he has been involved with during his 21 years in F1.

“We’ve been in some fantastic fights, but typically there have only been two teams or two drivers,” said Whitmarsh.

“Inevitably the best ones are those you win. I enjoyed 1998 for all sorts of reasons, a great championship with Mika (Hakkinen). It was nice to beat Michael (Schumacher).

“That was a great, great one that went all the way down to the final race in Japan. That was fantastic.

“But for the fans that year, as with many, it was two drivers fighting it out. This year, who knows, there are five drivers fighting for this one at the moment.

“The great thing is you’ve Jenson and Lewis, both the Red Bull drivers, you’ve got Fernando, all very much in this title fight, which is tremendously exciting.

“So to predict the outcome of this championship would be a very brave thing to do.”

As with any championship battle, the keys to success are simple, particularly if you are a driver or team involved at the sharp end of the season.

“If you’re confident or complacent then you really will not get the job done,” added Whitmarsh.

“You can never be confident because Red Bull and Ferrari are strong teams who are going to keep improving their cars, so we’ve got to keep improving ours.

“We’ve just got to continue striving to make our car quicker and better, to try and minimise mistakes because that’s how you win championships.”

Sunday’s race is essentially a pivotal one for McLaren as it marks a return to a low-speed, high-downforce track that has so far been their undoing this season.

Monaco and the Hungaroring are similar circuits to the Marina Bay venue, and where McLaren collected their lowest points hauls of the year, just 10 and four respectively.

Whitmarsh is naturally hoping some ground will have been recovered since the Hungarian Grand Prix on August 1, otherwise his team’s title hopes will again be exposed.

“It’s the first race at a low-speed, high-downforce track since the Hungaroring back in August,” said Whitmarsh.

“It’s also the first high-downforce track we’ve visited since the FIA tightened up its regulations on flexible bodywork.

“So it’s likely to give us a much clearer idea of the respective pace of the leading teams after two less representative events in Belgium and Italy.

“But this is a race the whole team looks forward to enormously, and we travel to Singapore with a number of new ideas to try out on our cars, feeling positive we’ll again be in a position to race at the front.”

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