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Pacesetters Red Bull can be beaten, insist McLaren

26 May 10 15:34 GMT
By Mark Orlovac

Pacesetters Red Bull can be caught this season, according to McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale.

Red Bull have been in scintillating form this campaign, claiming pole in all six races and winning three.

McLaren and the other teams have been left playing catch-up but Neale said: "They can be beaten.

"Red Bull have a have a quick car and they have the upper hand but I am confident that won't be the case by the middle of the season."

Red Bull lead both the drivers' and constructors' standings with Australian Mark Webber winning the last two races in Spain and Monaco.

McLaren, meanwhile, have had Lewis Hamilton failing to finish in Barcelona, while reigning champion Jenson Button - who won in Australia and China - retired on the third lap in Monte Carlo last time out.

But Neale says his team can draw on the experience of 2009, when they started off with a car that was well off the pace but improved in the second half of the season to win in Hungary and Singapore.

"Red Bull are about 0.8 seconds ahead in some circuits," he added.

"We know, just based on our own experience, that we closed 2.5 seconds a lap gap between the start of the season and Hungary last year so we've demonstrated that kind of gradient is do-able.

"Red Bull have a quick car but they are eminently catchable and it's our job to do that."

One area in which McLaren have set the mark this season is with the development of their 'F-duct' or 'J-switch' system, the aerodynamic device which improves straight-line speed.

Ferrari have developed their own version of the device while Red Bull are believed to be introducing their 'F-duct' this weekend at the Turkish Grand Prix.

"I think they will be able to catch up in that area depending on how they realise it," added Neale.

"Ferrari have also done good work in that area and demonstrated they have been able to get a wing to switch. So it doesn't surprise me at all that Red Bull will be there or thereabouts.

"Once you reveal these things at the beginning of the season and everybody figures out what you are doing and how it works, then the gap gets closed very quickly.

"F1 is fantastic at invention and intrigue and part of that makes sport interesting. A bit like the Red Bull car which has various features on it that everybody is looking at and trying to understand."

In Monaco, Button's race ended prematurely with an overheated engine which was partly caused by a bung which was left in the sidepods when he drove to the grid.

Neale says the team have to cut out those kind of mistakes if they are going to catch Red Bull this season.

"F1 is not at all tolerant and nor should it be," he stated.

"When it is as tight as it is in the championship and there is only a small gap at the top of the drivers' championship table and also the constructors' [table], it is all still to be played for.

"When it is this close you just cannot afford to make those kind of mistakes - so we need to eliminate those from our game like everybody else does.

"Red Bull I'm sure would say the same thing, if you look at the potential of that car and the points that they perhaps didn't achieve, they may have their own frustrations."

Neale is confident his team can improve this week in Turkey and he agrees with Hamilton that the car is well suited to the sweeping Istanbul track.

"At the moment our car seems to work better on the high-speed circuits," he said. "We have more of an issue on the low-speed corners.

"It will work better, but I am sure that a number of the teams are taking upgrades, and we will see what everybody brings. But it is a sweeping circuit and very smooth so you can run the car reasonably stiff which will probably suit us."

Neale has also welcomed the news that F1 is set for a return to the United States in 2012.

F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone has agreed a deal for the Texas state capital of Austin to host the race until 2021.

"Whilst I'm not aware of details I think most of us in F1 would relish the opportunity to go back to America," added Neale.

"It's a really important place for us to be. Our markets and our sponsors all want to operate there and F1 has to do something about the package and the way in which we present it to make it acceptable to one of the world's largest markets."

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