McLaren boss Whitmarsh says every point crucial in title race

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Martin Whitmarsh
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh says every point crucial in title race

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh believes this year's title race is so close that every single point a driver scores could be crucial.

After seven races, only three points cover the top three drivers - McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

"In the past, there was an emphasis on big results," Whitmarsh said.

"But this year it seems that minor points placings could provide a decisive edge in the title battle."

Seven different drivers have won already this season - with Hamilton only taking his first victory in Canada last weekend.

And several drivers who have shown front-running pace are yet to win - including Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher and the Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen.

Whitmarsh said that the competitiveness of the season meant that wins were likely to be harder to come by this season.

"It's certainly feasible that this year's title could be won by a driver who scores only two or three grand prix wins, but who reinforces those victories with the most consistently solid approach," Whitmarsh said.

Meanwhile, looking forward to next weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia on 22-24 June, Hamilton reiterated his belief that consistency will be critical this season.

"My win in Montreal was obviously an extremely satisfying moment for me - but, actually, it does very little to alter things in the world championship," Hamilton said.

"Firstly, while it's always pleasing to be leading the championship, I'm only two points ahead of Fernando [Alonso] - which is nothing, particularly when there are a handful of really strong drivers all separated by a couple of points, so there's still everything to play for.

"Secondly, the intensity of this year's championship means there's so little breathing space.

"We may have won in Canada, but there's an enormous amount of pressure to keep racking up good results at every grand prix.

"I think that consistency, rather than individual strong results, will be the key to winning this world championship, so we need to back it up in Valencia with another strong result."

Hamilton's team-mate Jenson Button admitted he needed to find a solution to his recent poor form in Valencia - the 2009 world champion has scored just two points in the last four races and was lapped by Hamilton on his way to 16th in Canada.

He is now eighth in the championship, 43 points - a win and a second place - behind Hamilton.

"The last few races haven't delivered the results I'd like, but there are still 13 races to go," Button said.

"We've had seven different winners and no clear championship leader has emerged, so I'll be looking to get a decent result under my belt next weekend in order to get my title bid back on track."

Button went a different direction on set-up from Hamilton in Canada in an attempt to get to the bottom of his problems.

But he is expected to start the Valencia weekend with Hamilton's settings on his car to give him a baseline from which to work.

"Canada was just one of those weekends where things didn't come together," he said.

"After some difficult races, I really needed the track time on Friday to find a clearer direction with the set-up, and, unfortunately, that didn't happen due to a number of technical issues [his car needed two gearbox changes as a result of an oil leaks].

"I think that set the tone for the rest of the weekend: we lacked the data we needed to tackle the race and we struggled.

"Still, there were important lessons to be learned from those issues, and we addressed everything back at [McLaren's base] MTC once we'd returned from Canada in a bid to get a clearer direction for Valencia next weekend.

"A day like that is enormously productive and I think we covered a lot of ground."