McLaren-Mercedes are adamant they can take the fight to rivals Ferrari at the forthcoming ‘power circuits’ of Spa and Monza, despite the Scuderia‘s ominous advantage in the speed traps at Valencia.
Formula One is currently under an engine ‘freeze’ from 2008-12 and the teams are only allowed to develop their power plants on the grounds of reliability or cost-saving, for which they must make a special public submission to the FIA.
Ferrari are widely believed to have taken advantage of this loophole better than their rivals to innovate gains in performance, and the Italian team had a significant advantage in the speed traps at Valencia with engine customers Toro Rosso and Force India also punching above their weight in the straight line race.
McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh is adamant however that Mercedes-Benz have the necessary grunt and reliability to keep championship leader Lewis Hamilton in the title hunt, and he points to Ferrari’s double engine-failure at Hungary and Valencia as a sign that consistency will be king in the decisive remaining races.
“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.
“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 10-place grid penalty.”
Ferrari however are confident they have overcome their engine reliability problems after it emerged that a “bad batch” of con rods triggered the failures.
“The failure will not be repeated,” Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.
McLaren have nonetheless significantly closed the gap to Ferrari in the constructors’ championship as a result of the Italian marquee’s engine woes. A mere eight points now separates Formula One’s powerhouses and Whitmarsh is confident that new developments to the MP4-23 will enable Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen to close the gap further still.
“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,” he said.
“We’re also focusing on further mistake-proofing our systems: 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.”
“From a human and physical perspective, these two races are also pivotal to our title challenge – 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.”