McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh is confident that the competitive rivalry between his 2010 drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will spur the team on rather than becoming destructive.
The Woking, UK-based squad pulled off a major coup by signing new World Champion Button to partner last year's title winner Hamilton. But the pairing of the two champions has led to fears of a repeat of the fractious intra-team rows that occurred when McLaren ran Ayrton Senna alongside Alain Prost in the late 1980s, and Hamilton alongside Fernando Alonso in 2007.
Whitmarsh is certain that McLaren can handle its 2010 drivers and that their desire to beat each other will prove positive for the team. "We feel confident that, as an organization, we'll be able to manage the demands and expectations of our drivers," he told Britain's Independent newspaper. "Lewis and Jenson are both World Champions, they know what it takes to win, and I'm sure they'll both be very motivated to push each other to deliver even greater results. It's my job to positively harness that competitiveness for the greater benefit of the team.
"It's a proposition that some teams might find troubling, but which we are absolutely relishing – it's a very nice problem to have! We have two fiercely competitive individuals who both fully understand the benefit of teamwork. They are phenomenal team players.
"My job is to manage that racer's instinct: they are there to race each other – and the only instruction they'll receive from me is to respect each other on the track. But that's it – other than that, they're free to race."
Hamilton has been involved with McLaren since his teens, when the team recognized his potential in karting and began backing his career. But Whitmarsh insisted McLaren would do everything it could to ensure newcomer Button felt just as comfortable in what is widely regarded as a team built around Hamilton.
"We've always traditionally involved our drivers in the development of the car, and the most important thing we can do in the early days of our relationship is to get Jenson to look at what we do, evaluate it and to ask questions and make suggestions," said Whitmarsh. "Preparation is everything: with Lewis at the start of 2007, he showed just how much could be achieved with a combination of rock-solid preparation and hard work.
"One of the most important tasks will be to get Jenson familiarized with our procedures: how we work at McLaren and how we go racing. He'll need to start putting names to faces, of course, but it should all be a very straightforward job for someone of his experience."