Whitmarsh and Haug optimistic for Silverstone Silverstone: the birthplace of the Formula 1 World Championship and the cradle of modern British motorsport. It goes without saying that everybody within the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team has a special place in their hearts for the Santander British Grand Prix.
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: After a few difficult races, is there an additional pressure to get a strong result next weekend? "Dealing with a disappointing result is an inevitable part of the ebb and flow of a championship assault. As a team, we exist to win - and when we aren’t winning we’re tough on ourselves. We’re aware that we’ve under-performed recently but there are no bigger critics than ourselves. And with both Lewis and Heikki, we’re convinced we’ve got the right blend of youth and enthusiasm to tackle the challenge of winning races and challenging for the championship."
Is the team encouraged by the changes it has recently made to the MP4-23? "Very much so. Both Lewis and Heikki came away from the Silverstone test feeling very optimistic about the changes we’ve made. We’ve been particularly aggressive in our development strategy, bringing new aero parts to the French Grand Prix, making further revisions ahead of the Silverstone test and planning even more upgrades for future races. The pace of development between the top teams will almost certainly prove crucial to the outcome of this year’s world championship and we’ve always recognized the importance of relentless, strategic development."
What sort of car works best around Silverstone? "There are two main characteristics: the high-speed corners that typify the first half of the track require a good overall aerodynamic balance that enables the drivers to feel comfortable and confident with the car. But the last third of the lap is much slower and tighter and is more reliant on mechanical grip than aero performance. It’s a fantastic challenge for drivers and engineers."
Norbert Haug, Vice President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: The British Grand Prix marks the end of the first half of the season - what’s your half-term report on Vodafone McLaren Mercedes? "It’s mixed. Clearly, we’ve have several opportunities to score more than the 58 points we currently have in the Constructors’ Championship. Our highlights have been Lewis’s two grand prix victories in Melbourne and Monte Carlo - the most prestigious race of the year. But there’s still everything to play for in the next 10 races."
Does the team face an uphill struggle in the second half of the season? "I see it differently: in the first eight races, it was possible to achieve an average finishing position of third and still lead the championship. Current leader Felipe Massa had two no-scores in the opening two races but still came back strongly. And Heikki would probably have doubled his current score if he hadn’t been hit by misfortune - the Safety Car in Melbourne, the crash in Barcelona and the starting problem in Monaco, none of which were his fault. And in the two most recent races, Lewis had the pace to score a lot more than zero points. These first eight races have been hard fought and provided us with four different winners and four different overall leaders. It’s been fantastic sport. We’ve been able to win championships from this position in the past and we still believe we have every possibility of taking the title battle right to the wire."
What does the Santander British Grand Prix mean for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes? "Silverstone is the first of two consecutive home races. Great Britain as well as Germany are enormously important markets for our title partner Vodafone and for Mercedes-Benz. The race in Silverstone is sold out, which we feel our team and particularly Lewis Hamilton have something to do with. I have great respect for the circuit and for the drivers’ performance at Silverstone. The layout is unique, only in Monza and Spa are the average speeds higher than at Silverstone. Of course, many of our colleagues at McLaren in Woking and Mercedes-Benz HPE in Brixworth, some with their relatives, will be there to keep their fingers crossed for the race team. All of them would certainly prefer a victory even more than a pay rise and everybody in the team works hard for this chance." Mercedes PR
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