Jenson Button is absolutely right to continue pushing for his own world title bid even though his mathematical hopes of retaining his crown are now extremely slim, reckons McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh.
The results of the Korean Grand Prix left Button 43 points behind leader Fernando Alonso with only 50 still available in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. After struggling to 12th at Yeongam, Button initially declared his title defense all but over, before later reconsidering and declaring that he would still fight to the finish.
With his teammate Lewis Hamilton within 21 points of Alonso, there had been suggestions that McLaren would be better served if Button slipped into a "number two" role to support Hamilton's campaign from now on, but in today's Vodafone McLaren Mercedes teleconference, Whitmarsh dismissed this and said Button's attitude was exactly what the team wanted to see.
"I think we all know there are no team orders, so I think the right thing for a racing driver is to go there and try to win," Whitmarsh said. I'd be disappointed if Jenson wasn't going there trying to win. I think the championship for Jenson in particular is tough, but if he was telling me that he'd given up, then I would be deeply disappointed."
Whitmarsh said he trusted Button to act in the team's interests if required, but that his priority should be to chase victory for himself.
"I think the right thing is that if he's getting his car in front of all our competitors, then that's the absolute right target and we'll see what happens in the course of the weekend," said the team boss.
"There's a good relationship between the two drivers. I'm sure they're going to cooperate with each other, I think Jenson is a remarkably composed, mature, thinking driver, and he should go there with the attitude of trying and seeking to win the race.
"During the course of the weekend, I'm sure he'll do everything he can to fulfill the ambitions of the team."
He feels the team orders question would only be relevant if McLaren were in a position to control the race anyway.
"I think Lewis and Jenson are both going to try and win the race. In the race itself, then we'll see what that situation is," said Whitmarsh. "If we are in the fortunate position of being in a strong one-two position, then that's a nice challenge to have... But I think the right frame of mind for the team and both drivers is we should be going to any event trying to win it, and trying to have a one-two.
"In order to do that, we're going to have to deliver performance improvements, which we're seeking to, on the car, we're going to have to perform well in the setting up and as a team, and the drivers have got to be performing as well.
"We can try and consider a variety of scenarios. We've been in championship hunts many times before, so have both the drivers. The best thing to do is to try and go there and win. We are not in the fortunate position of defending a lead, we're going there to attack and try and win."
Whitmarsh denied that McLaren was already working on potential team order scenarios should it become clear that Button's hopes were over.
"I think the conversations are 'guys, let's focus, we'll try and make the car as good as we can, you try and win,'" Whitmarsh insisted. "That's the depth of conversations going on at the moment."