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McLaren expects tough development race

ESPN Staff
July 25, 2012 « McLaren unsure of Red Bull engine map effect | FIA clamps down on engine maps »
Jonathan Neale believes the top three teams ave very closely matched © Sutton Images
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McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale expects the strong development race to continue after saying there is little to choose between Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.

In Germany the top three of Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button ran closely together throughout the race, with less than seven seconds covering all three at the end of the race before Vettel's retrospective drive-through penalty. With both McLaren drivers well adrift in the drivers' championship Neale was asked if Alonso was the man to beat but he said it would depend on which teams develop their cars the best.

"It depends on development rate," Neale told a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. "Whilst it's undeniable that Fernando's driven really well this season, if you look at the points conversion rate of the Red Bull they're very strong and we have to get in amongst that mix but I don't think that Fernando has a clear advantage over Red Bull at this stage I think their development rate looks fine."

Asked for his assessment of the leading three teams at present, Neale said that all three are very closely matched.

"As we head in to this weekend are we expecting to lock out the front row? Expect? No. Hope? Of course. We believe we've got a competitive car; we've been focusing a lot on our race pace because our qualifying pace has been better than our race pace. We believe that both drivers have got a good chance of being very competitive and hopefully one of them can win this weekend. But it's a very close grid as you all know, and notwithstanding whether the teams are able to exploit the conditions and the tyres, the relative upgrades; you don't need to bring very much to suddenly change the competitive order.

"Nobody at this stage in any of the teams is going to be backing out and diverting resources to next year or the year after. So I think we're in for a very challenging race in Hungary and I suspect that the rate of development will be strong throughout August in to the middle of September as well. But I think there's still a lot to go - I don't think it's static and I think the three top teams have got very competitive cars."

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