Friday August 31, 2012
Hamilton declares McLaren are title contenders after five-week break
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS: Lewis Hamilton arrived at Spa eager to get back on track at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, convinced that McLaren are now genuine contenders for both world championships.
The Woking-based team struggled to find results during a first half of the season littered with costly errors and misfortunes, but a late push from the team saw them back in contention in Germany before Hamilton secured victory in Budapest prior to the five-week summer hiatus.
The 2008 champion, now fourth in the title race, admitted his victory had been a welcome boost and the team were now feeling a lot more confident going into the final nine races.
“My win in Hungary was a fantastic way to go into the summer break,” he said, “it had the added bonus of sending the whole team away for their holidays with a positive feeling in their hearts.
“It’s also given me the hope and assurance that we can come back for the final nine races with a real chance to go for both world championships.”
However, given the unpredictable start to the season which saw seven different drivers win the opening seven races, the 2008 champion said there were still no clear title favourites and admitted that his main focus would be on reeling in championship leader Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, who holds a 47-point lead over the Briton.
He said: “Given the unpredictability of the sport, I think it’s still difficult to predict accurately who’ll win the next grand prix, but I reckon the coming few weeks ought to give us a much clearer idea of the destination of the world title.
“It’s going to be an extremely tough, tactical and interesting finale to the season. There’s no team with a clear advantage – although we’re all pushing hard to catch Fernando’s points tally in the drivers’ championship – so there’s still everything to play for.”
Despite their strong showing at the Hungarian Grand Prix and leaving for the summer break as the team in charge, McLaren director Jonathan Neale insisted the British team would not be taking anything for granted at Spa this weekend.
Neale admitted the team were feeling a lot more positive following their success in Budapest but were under no illusions that they would simply pick up where they left off and expects a very tightly-contested second half to the season.
“I think we were probably out-developed around Easter time by some of our competitors, and then we out-developed our competitors through June,” he said. “What happens during July and August is still being played out, so we’ll see. But with only a tenth or two separating the top 10 cars, it is still very marginal.
“It’s going to be a really excited play-out during the rest of the season.”
He added: “We have reasons to believe that we’re making progress, but it was a very tight race [in Hungary].
“This season is going to run long and hard for everybody.” — AFP