McLaren sure it can still beat Red Bull

Autosport

McLaren may concede that Red Bull looks like is on its way to championship glory, but it is still adamant that there is a good chance to beat them in races.

Despite a third straight front row lock-out for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in India, McLaren sporting director Sam Michael thinks that a more detailed look at the performance of his outfit and its main rival shows that the competitive situation is closer than it appears at first glance.

He accepts that Red Bull's recent surge forward in form has been a surprise, but he does not think his outfit has any grounds to consider throwing in the towel in the fight for wins.

"I think to be honest going into Suzuka I thought we were going to have a good run for the constructors' championship, so they definitely have stepped up more than what we expected them to," explained Michael.

"We expected to be strong on at least two of the last three tracks, and we still think that we can take the fight to them in India. But even if they were to beat us, I think our race pace would be comparable.

"It is not like, if you go back to Valencia where they totally dominated, they have not dominated like that. And even in the race in Korea two weeks ago, if we had a better run then we could have at least given one of them a hard time.

"So they are doing that, and credit to them that they are, but it is not a runaway in terms of performance. It might be for the championship, because they have built it up, but we think we can still be on them."

Michael believes the positive signs from Friday's long run form shows that McLaren has the pace to fight Red Bull for victory, but much will depend on track position.

"We think we can challenge Red Bull," he said. "The only thing is it is so close, when you get in the wake and lose your downforce all those factors come into play, so if Vettel managed to get away in first three or four laps, then it will be really difficult to catch up with him."

Despite his belief that McLaren needs to not allow Vettel to get clear at the front, he thinks there remains other opportunities to overhaul the German later on even if he does so.

"We think our race pace is the same as Red Bull," he said. "We are not slower than Red Bull, but we don't think we are quicker. So it means it is going to come down to the first lap.

"If he does get away and maintains a three second gap, there is still a possibility to get him on strategy, but it will be pretty hard. All the signs from practice are that we can run with them but, when you get there and get in the wake, you lose 10-15% of your downforce and then you start falling off the back."

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