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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 July, 2004, 22:34 GMT 23:34 UK
McLaren boss warns Ferrari
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor at Silverstone

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher pursued by Kimi Raikkonen at Silverstone
McLaren believe they can beat Ferrari in a straight fight before the end of the season after their improved performance at the British Grand Prix.

Kimi Raikkonen was a close second to Michael Schumacher in only the second race for McLaren's new car, which will be upgraded for the German Grand Prix.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis said: "I don't think anyone has pushed Ferrari harder this year than we did here.

"We made Michael work, and we'll make him work even harder at the next race."

Raikkonen raced nose-to-tail with Schumacher for much of Sunday's race.

The sense of a real battle was to some degree an illusion, because Schumacher did only two stops to Raikkonen's three and the McLaren still had one more pit stop to make when Schumacher rejoined in the lead after his final stop.

We'll go to Hockenheim with a bit more pace
Ron Dennis

But McLaren said the race had flattered Ferrari to some degree because Raikkonen had been held up by slower cars when he rejoined after his first two stops.

McLaren technical director Adrian Newey said: "We were unlucky that after the first pit stop when [BAR driver Takuma] Sato blocked Kimi for a couple of laps.

"He's entitled to do that but it basically meant that when Michael came out Kimi was just behind him, whereas if that had not happened, Kimi would have been in front both times.

"We wouldn't have won the race, but it would have been a lot closer.

"The fact is on one lap we are competitive, but over the length of a stint, we are using our tyres more than the other Michelin runners, but obviously Ferrari are very consistent."

Dennis added: "We have a particularly good step in performance coming at the test here next week.

"We think we'll go to Hockenheim with a bit more pace and maybe we can give them a bit more of a hard time."

McLaren's turnaround in the last two races has been remarkable after a start to the season that Dennis described at Silverstone as "far worse than dismal; appalling might do it."

Dennis said he did not regret the team's decision to start the season with their MP4-19 car, which has now been superceded by the practically all-new MP4-19B.

Newey, though, does not agree.

The MP4-19 was, according to Newey, "in performance terms" the same car as the MP4- 18 that was tested but never raced in 2003 because it was too unreliable.

The decision to start 2004 with that car was made in order to ensure that its Mercedes engine was reliable from the first race.

But a series of embarrassing engine failures in the first half of the season, during which it became clear that the car had become outdated, have shown that policy to have been a wrong move.

It is now clear that McLaren should have started the season with the car they are racing now.

It would not have had all the new parts it featured in Silverstone, but it would have had the changes that have made the major differences - new aerodynamics and revised rear suspension.

Newey said the same mistake will not be made for next year's MP4-20.

It will be a completely new car and will probably not run for the first time until February, to ensure design work can continue for as long as possible.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Report: BBC Five Live's Jonathan Legard




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