McLaren turn attention to next season

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The Independent Online

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has confirmed his team are already ploughing considerable resources into ensuring Lewis Hamilton has a car to hopefully again become a title contender next year.

Former team principal Eddie Jordan described the current model as the worst the team have built, while another source labelled it "a boat".

Hamilton's title defence is certainly sinking without trace after a run of three grands prix without scoring a point for the first time in his Formula One career following yesterday's 13th-place finish in Turkey.

A major upgrade is due for the German Grand Prix early next month, although if Whitmarsh has his way then it will be on the car for the next race at Silverstone in 13 days' time.

But with Hamilton 52 points adrift of Jenson Button following his rousing start to the season with six wins from seven races, it is hardly a surprise McLaren are turning their attentions to 2010.

"We've some of our technical big guns on next year's programme because we need to," confirmed Whitmarsh.

"From last year to this there was a very large set of changes, and I wouldn't say circumstances conspired against us, but they were the greatest in the last 20 years.

"It was an ideal opportunity for teams with resources, or because they weren't competing, to steal a march on those pouring resources into the existing car.

"Next year, we've not as large but a relatively substantial change, with a prohibition on re-fuelling.

"Fuel tanks will be 14 to 15 centimetres longer, which might not sound much, but talk to the engineers and it's a very significant and substantial change.

"So we have to take the opportunity of that step change in the rules to make sure we have a competitive car next year.

"We will continue to work on this year's car, but inevitably we've got to now taper development resource into the new car.

"At the moment we're not fighting for a championship. We haven't given up, and we're going to try to understand this car more.

"But we must, must make sure we've a car that's more competitive for next season."

It will not be the British Grand Prix homecoming Hamilton had hoped for on June 21, with all eyes instead focused on Button.

The question being asked now is whether Hamilton is that talented, or whether he simply lucked into a car good enough to win him the title.

Dismissing such nonsensical remarks, Whitmarsh added: "There will always be people who will look at winning in the most competitive car.

"But Lewis has done an extraordinary job this year in what is a new experience for him.

"In the past he has been in the best karts and the best Renault team (Formula Renault).

"He has had an entire career of going to a race track with the firm conviction that if he had the equipment and he did a good enough job, he would win the race.

"Sadly we have not provided him with that this year, and that has been a big learning experience for him.

"It is not an enjoyable experience, but we all learn from these situations and Lewis will.

"He is an extraordinary racing driver and a worthy world champion, so any questions of him have already been answered."