McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has conceded that Lewis Hamilton's title defense is all but over – as he fears his outfit is unlikely to contend for a place on the podium for a while, judging by its poor performance in Turkey.
After encouraging progress early in the season, McLaren suffered a slump down the order in Istanbul as Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen struggled with the high-speed aerodynamic deficiencies of their car. And with Hamilton having now failed to score points for the last three races, Whitmarsh conceded that runaway title leader Jenson Button was now all but out of reach.
"I think you have to say that Jenson looks in good shape, and I am sure he deserves it," he explained. "He has had years of really struggling in the dark and now he is doing a fantastic job, he is in a competitive car and I have to say that he looks like he is going to be the World Champion. I think he is doing a fantastic job.
"With regards to us, then we have to make sure that we are strong next year. We have to make sure that the way in which we approach next year is that we apply adequate resource."
Whitmarsh believes that his team and Ferrari are still suffering from having pushed so hard and long with development last year – at a time when teams like Brawn and Red Bull Racing were focusing entirely on their 2009 challengers.
"I think ourselves and Ferrari are still struggling as a consequence of what has happened in the last few years, but at the same time to say we are a racing team and to say we are not going to try and win a race this year is not in our make up.
"It is not in our DNA – we will be pushing hard to see how we can improve the car. We are realistic, we are not making any predictions that we are going to be back there on the podium any time soon, but we are going to keep pushing and learning what we can from this car and making sure that we apply adequate resource to next year's car to make sure we are competitive."
Whitmarsh said the team was not too surprised that it had a troubled time in Turkey, despite some encouraging laps from Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen in Friday practice.
"I think Friday when there was low track grip and you saw people getting excited, I don't think people in our camp were getting excited," he said. "We were realistic.
"We knew it was going to be a tough weekend and so I think also when you don't qualify well, you look at Rubens (Barrichello's) performance in a vastly superior car, you cannot make progress and it is very, very difficult to recover. So, if you are back there in qualifying then there is little you can do. Our drivers drove a solid race but you can't rescue yourself."
When asked if he feared another difficult time at Hamilton's home race at Silverstone next week, Whitmarsh said: "I think it is going to be hard, but we will fight and do the best we can."