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Whitmarsh confident of victory

NEWS STORY
12/03/2012

McLaren expect to win races in 2012, according to team boss Martin Whitmarsh. After a winter in which the Woking based squad has looked competitive, the team is buoyant heading in to the opening race of the season.

"We should be expecting to win races this year," said Whitmarsh in the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone in. "The bad news is it doesn't look like we're dominant. The good news is - and not just for us but for the sport - nobody else looks like they're dominant!"

A more positive pre-season is in contrast to the team's fortunes last year, which saw it arrive in Australia without having completed a full race distance. It's a memory fresh in Whitmarsh's mind, though he remains weary of reading too much in to testing times.

"We all know and we all say at this time of year that fuel loads, tyre programmes and test programmes interfere with the ability of the teams to be able to judge relative performance," he explained. "(The) long runs and race simulations that some of the teams do give a better, fairer, indication rather than the headline times at the end of each day.

Yet while confident of the team's place at the front of the field, he was less certain when discussing matters at the other end. Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone last week suggested customers cars once again be looked in to, a point Whitmarsh seemed unable to make his mind up on.

"Philosophically we're not sure customer cars are the right thing for the sport," he initially said. "An interesting characteristic of Formula One and one of the features which differentiates it from other varieties of motor sport is having teams that have constructed and are responsible for developing their vehicles and having the variety that flows from that."

However in the next breath he changed his tune. "If the regulations allowed it then we'd obviously have to look at it... We've got to be aware of the challenge in Formula One at the moment. There are a lot of financial challenges in our sport and it might one day become necessary to either allow some of the small teams to survive, to allow new entrants, for there to be some form of customer car.

"We should be careful here," he warned. "Some teams might find it attractive but the middle order teams - maybe the Williams', the Lotus', and Force Indias and the like - maybe it's a threat to their structure.

"It depends how we position them; whether they're one year old cars, current cars, what level of performance they're allowed etc. Everybody's got to keep an open mind. We need twenty-ish cars, we'd like them to be all relatively competitive, to put a show on in Formula One. We may have to resort to a variety of antics in the future in order to achieve that."

McLaren was linked with a customer car deal with the failed Prodrive Formula One bid ahead of the 2010 season. Regulations had initially allowed customer cars and had provisions for a budget cap, before being scrapped at the last moment. Of the four successful candidates only three ever made the grid, none has scored a point and only one managed to get its car ready for pre-season testing this year.

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