McLaren are "not intimidated" by Ferrari return to form

By Sarah HoltBBC Sport

McLaren say they are "not intimidated" by Ferrari's resurgence and plan to renew their rivalry with frontrunners Red Bull at the German Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso took Ferrari's first win of 2011 in Britain with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton only coming fourth and Jenson Button being forced to retire.

But McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale said: "We are not intimidated.

"Up until the last week we were the only ones putting up a credible fight against Red Bull."

Alonso benefited from improved race pace and a pit-stop error from Red Bull's leader Sebastian Vettel to win at Silverstone.

Neale shrugged off the suggestion that McLaren, who have been Red Bull's closest rivals on track in the first half of the season, have now been overtaken by Ferrari.

"I sincerely hope not," Neale responded.

"Ferrari have made steady progress over the last four or five races in qualifying. In the latter part of the [Silverstone] race as [the track] dried up, Alonso was able to show the underlying pace difference. We are mindful of that and not at all complacent.

"Lewis and Jenson did a fantastic and aggressive job out there racing and, but for other factors, we should have had both cars around second and fourth and we might feel differently about the whole grand prix."

While wet weather affected performance at Silverstone, McLaren say an FIA directive to restrict the use of exhaust gases to generate downforce had a major impact on the competitiveness of their car.

The British GP was dominated by debate over the issue and it was only after the race that F1 bosses officially agreed to abandon the ban until next season.

The use of so-called off-throttle blowing of the diffuser, which is where teams direct exhaust gases over the rear floor of the cars even when the driver is not pressing the accelerator, will now be allowed in the final 10 races of 2011.

"The impact of the interpretation of engine rules at Silverstone cost us more than both Ferrari and Red Bull," Neale said. "That's a matter of fact, not opinion.

"We went backwards relative to both of them by 0.7-0.8 seconds [per lap]. That's why we found ourselves surrounded by some of the other players with whom we'd got some clear air up until that point.

"We look forward to the return to the so-called Valencia format of the regulations for this weekend."

Ahead of this weekend's race at the Nurburgring, Hamilton and Button are fourth and fifth respectively in the standings, both 95 points behind Vettel.

"While it's mathematically possible to win the championship we'll fight for it," added Neale. "And even if it isn't, it doesn't mean that we're not going to try and win races.

"At the moment it's business as usual and we'll certainly not make it easy for Red Bull."

A disappointing performance by McLaren on British home soil had also led to speculation that Martin Whitmarsh's position as team principal was under threat.

But Neale batted away the rumours as "just part of the media circus", adding: "We looked at it internally, smiled and moved on. I don't take it very seriously.

"Martin has done a fantastic job for McLaren. We want Martin, Lewis and Jenson here for the long-term."

Top Stories