McLaren thinks that the world title fight remains wide open after an encouraging step forward in its performance against pacesetters Red Bull Racing in Turkey.
Teams had been bracing themselves for a drubbing from Red Bull in Istanbul, after the team outqualified its nearest opposition by nearly one second in the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this month. But with Lewis Hamilton getting within two tenths of a second of pole position man Mark Webber in Turkey, hopes are high that McLaren's title ambitions are well and truly alive.
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: "It is still early in the season, and none of us here in Turkey, or the several hundred people we have back in Woking, have given up on that one. We speak to everyone in the company quite regularly and, if you are making 0.2-0.3 seconds improvement per race, although it doesn't sound enough, over four races that is one second.
"Red Bull won't stand still. They are a good organization and we just have to make sure that we are improving at a faster rate than them. We will get closer. The championship is still wide open and we will see what we can do here, and then work on developing the car for successive races. It is too early to give up on the championship as far as I am concerned."
World Champion Jenson Button admitted that he had never expected such a step forward from McLaren in Turkey, and thought it boded well for the rest of the campaign.
"I am very impressed with the improvements that we have here," he said. "I am actually a little surprised, in a positive way, about how close we are to the Red Bulls. And if it keeps going like this, it is looking very positive for the next few races. Then, we have got to make sure that we have a perfect weekend in terms of reliability and our strategy. And, if we can do that, we have a good chance of challenging them over the next few races."
He added: "I think it is very early to start thinking about our ultimate goal which is to fight for the world championship and to win the World Championship. We have to take it race by race, and look at what we can bring and make the best out of what we bring to that race."
Hamilton reckoned the start to the Turkish Grand Prix would be crucial to his ambitions of winning, although he also thought there would be a chance of drafting past Webber on the long straights at the end of the lap.
"It is going to be very difficult, especially those first couple of laps," he said. "Coming from qualifying with a light car and then going into the race with a heavy car, whether the tires are warmed up or not the car is moving around more. So I think for everyone who goes into Turn 8 for the first time, it will be a bit different. And I guess whoever goes through there smoothest or fastest without scrubbing any speed off will be quickest.
"I think the Red Bulls have been flat-out through there all weekend, so they have a slight advantage, but if I was able to keep as close as possible behind him then I have a good shot out of Turn 8 all the way up to Turn 12. That will be the plan B. But plan one is to get past him at the start."
Whitmarsh said with his team having qualified second and fourth there was every reason to believe it was in the hunt for the win.
"The best we can do is a 1-2. There are two very competitive Red Bulls, and they have done a good job, but we have two great racers. If we are on the first and second row of the grid and we are not hoping to win, there is something wrong with us, isn't there? I want us to win and I want us to have a 1-2, and that is not naive on any of our parts.
"It is going to be tough to beat them, but they have had some fragility. I think the long run pace of both of these guys is good, they are excellent racers, and we have to go out there and give it all and see if we can win the race."