McLaren sporting director Sam Michael believes it is possible for the team to take the fight to Red Bull over the remaining races and says nothing changes in the team’s approach to the end of the season despite its championship challenge being effectively over.
Since Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox failed while leading in Singapore a month ago Red Bull has not been toppled from the top of the order in either qualifying or the race while in contrast McLaren have suffered a run of reliability problems with both of its cars.
That run of results has laid the platform for Red Bull to go on and retain both world championships but Michael is certain McLaren’s rival will have it far from all its own way between India and Brazil.
“Red Bull have won the last three and there’s some circumstances that lent to us not being able to do that reliability-wise within all those races and getting on top of those issues quickly is something that we’ve done,” he told journalists in a Vodafone phone-in.
“In terms of where they are for the next four, they’re quick different circuits. Red Bull took a good step across Singapore and Suzuka in terms of performance so they are tough competitors. But our target is still to beat them and there is no reason why not.
“The thing is the gaps are very small so it only takes one or two tenths to swing one way to another and that can be driven off a development of theirs working or another team not bringing enough. It can swing from one way to another and it’s great for everyone watching grand prix racing, it just makes our life very difficult. We believe we can the challenge to them in these last four races.”
Although declining to elaborate what specific upgrades McLaren had in the pipeline for the final back-to-back rounds, Michael said that the call to continuing developing the MP4-27 right through to Brazil was a “pretty straightforward decision” given the relatively stable regulations over the winter.
He also denied that the battle to get on top of its recent reliability problems – the team has only a 64% finishing record with its two cars in the last seven races compared with both Ferrari and Red Bull’s 86% – had taken away from time spent focusing on the development of the car.
“Sometimes it can do if you have something that’s endemic but in the case of the problems we’ve had this year, no it hasn’t had any impact on the way we’ve performed [with the development],” Michael insisted.
Indeed he made clear that McLaren’s desire to win every race they enter was undiminished for the final month of the campaign: “I don’t think it changes anything because you don’t really plan anything differently. You turn up at a grand prix circuit and our target at McLaren is to win every race and we do our best to achieve that.
“So you don’t make any decisions, whether it’s set-up or it’s strategy or development parts, to either put you at risk or not finish the race or don’t bring maximum performance to the car regardless of where you are in the world championship. So it really doesn’t change anything: we’re turning up and trying to finish first and second in the last four races.”