McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh thinks his team has closed the gap to Red Bull Racing, despite seeing his rivals take a dominant 1-2 finish in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
McLaren's hopes of success in Sepang were dampened by a disastrous qualifying session, and Whitmarsh was well aware of how much Sunday's race was a question of damage limitation. However, with things finely poised in the championship standings, Whitmarsh believes that developments in the pipeline for his team should see it fighting on level terms with Red Bull soon.
"I think they were very much in a class of their own but we are very much closer now," Whitmarsh said when asked if he felt Red Bull Racing's three pole positions meant the team was hard to catch. "Their qualifying pace has been very good, we think we know why, and I think that is something that others will be coming through with shortly."
Whitmarsh said McLaren will be running a series of updates at the Chinese Grand Prix, which could include a revised suspension for helping optimize ride height to boost speed in qualifying.
"We have some new parts coming for China which will lift us by more than a few tenths," explained Whitmarsh. "We had six modifications here that were worth over 0.3sec, and if we can deliver more than 0.3sec going to China, then I think it will be a pretty good effort – particularly in qualifying."
Whitmarsh also believes that the team is better equipped to keep up momentum with its improvements this season than it was last year when it had to get to the bottom of what went wrong with its initial car design.
"I sensed at the beginning of last year we were a long way behind and a little bit lost in terms of correlation between our tools and what happened on track," he said. "This year we've got a good hit rate and a good correlation between the tools – therefore if we find something that is quicker in analysis and simulation then we put it on the car.
"We have a reasonable momentum at the moment. But who knows? You can turn up at the next race and someone goes, 'Hallelujah,' finds something, and they take half a second to one second off you. But I think we will be competitive in China."