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Page last updated at 13:40 GMT, Wednesday, 25 August 2010 14:40 UK

McLaren take stock of their faltering title challenge

Mark Webber wins the Hungarian Grand Prix

Hungarian Grand Prix in 90 seconds

By Nabil Hassan

McLaren say recent results have forced the team to sit down and analyse their stuttering performances as they look to keep their championship hopes alive.

The team trail Red Bull in both the constructors' and drivers' standings with Mark Webber leading the race.

"I think we underperformed in Hungary," McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale told BBC Sport.

"The gap to Ferrari and Red Bull was significant and that has obviously caused us to go back and take stock."

Britain's former Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton trails Webber by four points having failed to finish in the previous race in Hungary while Ferrari's recent resurgence is also increasing competition with Spaniard Fernando Alonso back in the championship mix.


McLaren's drivers have failed to finish in the top three places in either of the last two races.

Hamilton had held the lead in the championship since the eighth race of the season in Canada after collecting back-to-back wins in Istanbul and Montreal.

But Neale says despite recent poor performances the mood in the camp is good as the team look ahead to this weekend's Grand Prix race at Spa in Belgium.

"We are up for it [Spa]," Neale added during a McLaren news conference.

"I'm not sure if you sense it, but I think F1 is looking forward to going to Spa. It is a great circuit, the drivers like racing there, it is very close at the top and we've got to fight back and that is what we are planning to do.

"It's is going to be a very close finish to the season and we want to win it as much as anybody so we'll just rise to the challenge."

Despite Neale's bullish comments McLaren know they will have to make significant improvements if they are to match the speed of Red Bull and stave off the threat of Ferrari.

McLaren were also well off the pace at Germany's Hockenheim circuit while the updates the team introduced last month in Silverstone - notably their version of the exhaust-blown diffuser - have not delivered enough performance.

The Red Bull and Ferrari have both benefited from controversial flexible front wings which McLaren have yet to deploy on their cars.

"It is no secret that when you have engine regulations that are largely fixed, the majority of your lap times are going to come from aero-dynamics so that is the area that all the teams are focusing on at the moment," stated Neale.

"Clearly with the regulations over the past couple of years, and the changes that have been made, there are far fewer devices on the car so everybody is working on floors, wings and details down the side of the car so we are going to continue on that vein."

Neale refused to call this weekend's race make or break but does understand the importance of the challenge ahead for McLaren in Spa.

I don't think any of the races are make or break at this stage, but yes, every race is important

Jonathan Neale

The top five drivers are separated by only 20 points as the season approaches its denouement and with 25 points awarded for a race win Webber, Hamilton, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, McLaren's Jenson Button and Alonso are all hotly contesting the title.

"I don't think any of the races are make or break at this stage, but yes, every race is important," said Neale.

"The coming races will be a straight development race - as we knew they would be at the beginning of the year with so many drivers so close. It depends on what we can invent between now and the end of the season.

"Given our performance in Hungary, going back to circuits with similar characteristics would be concerning, but we're working very hard to do something about that.

"We expect an upgrade package for Singapore, and if the title race is as close as it is at the moment, we'll expect to be taking a development package to the last race."

Looking ahead, there have also been reports that McLaren are to remove the F-duct on its car for the Italian Gran Prix in Monza next month, but Neale says no definite decision has been made.

"We have the option to either run it or not [at Monza] and I think at the moment we are looking at all of the options," explained Neale.

"I think that it is incorrect to assume that we have made a decision as to whether we are or whether we're not removing it.

"We will have the choice and will watch carefully where the end of straight speeds come out during the Spa weekend. We will see how competitive we are and then make a decision in the following week. But the nice thing is we've got options."

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see also
Hamilton fired up for title fight
20 Aug 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton excited by title battle
04 Aug 10 |  Formula 1
Webber seals vital win in Hungary
01 Aug 10 |  Formula 1

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