x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

McLaren boosted by strong show in Barcelona

Martin Whitmarsh is pleased with display of his McLaren team, but wants more in Monte Carlo next week.

BARCELONA // The trucks were packing up before Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button had even taken their places on the second and third steps of the podium as thoughts among the McLaren-Mercedes team turned to Monaco.

Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel may have won his fourth race from five this season at the Spanish Grand Prix yesterday, but the speed at which Martin Whitmarsh's outfit are hunting him down is to be admired.

Hamilton was a mere 0.6 seconds behind Vettel at Circuit de Catalunya, while Button showed all the talent that brought him the drivers' title in 2009 to fight from 10th up to third after experiencing a disastrous start off the line.

Hamilton now trails Vettel by 41 points in the world championship.

Whitmarsh, the team principal at McLaren, said that save for Button's opening lap, the Briton's performance was "one of those drives that marks out a true world champion".

He added: "We scored 33 world championship points, which is another decent haul, but we want to win and we intend to win, and that's exactly what we'll be doing our damnedest to do on the famously challenging streets of Monte-Carlo in just a few days' time."

The Monaco Grand Prix starts - unlike any other race on the calendar - with free practice on Thursday rather than Friday and both drivers will be looking to replicate the performances they showed here as they aim to keep the pressure on Vettel and on Red Bull.

"It is good to come from this race on a positive footing going into Monaco, where a driver can make even more of a difference," said Hamilton, who added that he expects a new update to be fitted to the car in time for the season's sixth race of the season.

"Hopefully the gap will be even closer from me and Jenson to the Red Bulls."

"I was pleasantly surprised by how fast we were. In race trim, I actually think we were quicker than the Red Bulls, except through the really high-speed stuff.

"I pushed as hard as I could all afternoon, and I'm really happy with the result. A few more laps and it might have been a different order at the front, but I just ran out of time at the end."

Button does not expect to see anything like the on-track battles that were evident yesterday due to the Monte Carlo street circuit's notoriously narrow, twisting track. He said that the tyre compounds available will make things even more tricky for the drivers.

"We are all in the same boat, so it will make it fun for sure," he said.

Both Hamilton and Button were investigated by Race Control - as was Jaime Alguersuari of Toro Rosso and Mark Webber of Red Bull - following the race for ignoring yellow flags following Heikki Kovalainen's shunt midway through the race as his Team Lotus went off at Turn Four.

However, neither driver appeared fazed and they were both later reprimanded by the race stewards with no punishment.