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Page last updated at 09:42 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 10:42 UK

McLaren talk up Kers 'advantage'

Venue: Valencia Dates: 21-23 August 2009 Coverage: Live coverage of Friday's practice sessions, Saturday qualifying and Sunday's race - which starts at 1300 BST - across BBC TV, radio and online platforms. Find full listings here

Lewis Hamilton and Martin Whitmarsh
Hamilton and Whitmarsh have bounced back after a troubling start to the season

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh says McLaren hope to exploit the "advantages" he believes Kers can provide now their car is competing at the front of the grid.

McLaren, one of only two teams still using the energy power-boost system, suffered a poor start to 2009.

But Lewis Hamilton won the last grand prix in Hungary in an improving car.

"There is no doubt now that Kers is an advantage," said Whitmarsh. "Certainly, if we can get near the front of the grid then we have a launch advantage."

Ahead of this weekend's European Grand Prix, he added: "We have, potentially, a small lap time advantage, and we have a potential overtake or defending advantage."

I'm still buzzing from the Hungary win and I'm hopeful of being able to carry that pace into Valencia

Lewis Hamilton

McLaren drivers Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen floundered for most of the first half of the season in a car that struggled for downforce and subsequent race pace.

But Whitmarsh, who admits McLaren "went down a technical blind alley" and "made a number of mistakes that cost us dearly", insists they are now back on track.

"At the beginning of the year, frankly, we were too far back in the grid to be able to exploit the launch advantage that Kers should be giving us," he said.

"It has come together and been a real technical challenge for everyone in the team, and the drivers."

Defending world champion Hamilton expects to build on the form he showed to win in Hungary to compete for a podium place in Valencia this weekend.

"I'm still buzzing from the Hungary win and I'm hopeful of being able to carry that pace into Valencia," he said.

Hamilton, 24, said the Kers (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) power-boost system - which Ferrari are also using - proved "anything can happen" and the Briton is optimistic he can replicate the pace he found in Hungary.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton praises team's persistance (UK only)

"Particularly with our new upgrades to the car," he said. "I'm once again hoping that it [Kers] will provide the difference in the race."

A new front wing, diffuser and engine cover, introduced in Germany, have improved the car's pace by about 0.8 seconds a lap and the car will have a further upgraded package in Spain.

"It's a very demanding circuit, the kind of place that punishes any mistakes hard," stated Hamilton.

"It's quite tight and relatively slow, so it should suit our package. It's also very difficult to overtake, as we discovered last year."

Hamilton finished second in Valencia last season where Brazilian Felipe Massa, who is recovering in Brazil after crashing in Hungary, dominated to take victory in his Ferrari.

McLaren team-mate Kovalainen, who finished fifth in Hungary, is also expecting to capitalise on the cars' improved performance.

"Having driven the fully updated car for the first time in Hungary last month, it was very encouraging to be able to feel just how much progress the team has made developing the MP4-24," he said.

"We've now got a car that's much easier to drive on the limit, and which really rewards your input."


Talking about speculation over the Finn's position with McLaren next season, Whitmarsh said Kovalainen needed to prove his worth to the team in the rest of 2009.

"By his own evaluation he hasn't raced as well as he would have liked and we would have liked him to this year," he said on Wednesday. "[But] he's working hard.

"We are not in active discussions with any other drivers at the moment - but it's true to say we haven't confirmed our driver line-up for next year.

"A lot of us want to see Heikki do some good results this year and that will ensure that he remains with us. That is certainly our wish."

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