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GP Week : Issue 3
26 McLAREN Team Principal Ron Dennis has said his team’s apparent lack of pace compared to the Ferraris in Malaysia is no cause for concern. The Englishman pointed to a set of circumstances, initiated by his drivers’ five place grid penalties on Saturday, that had hidden the team’s true speed but admitted that at this stage it is just too early to tell where anybody’s true competitiveness lies. “Our pace was really dictated by backmarkers,” he told journalists in the Sepang paddock after the Grand Prix. “We know what our speed is but we really won’t know how competitive we are until Barcelona. That’s what I said at the beginning of the season. “But we’re leading both championships, which at this point is not a bad position to be in.” Dennis also pointed to the individual nature of the opening three tracks on the 2008 calendar as being a fairly unreliable barometer of form. “You remember we came first and second here last year so, as I said, the Australian, Malaysian and Bahrain circuits are all very different in their characteristics and they don’t reflect the true pace that you expect to understand from the car. “Barcelona will be where it’s all at.” After a commanding win in Australia, Lewis Hamilton seemed to struggle for pace amongst the pack in Malaysia, and Dennis was quick to point out that leading a race and fighting for position created very different conditions for drivers. “The thing is once you spend time in traffic the front tyres get a bit more punishment and once we were in clean air we were able to have the pace. “That’s the advantage of leading a Grand Prix. If you remember I said to you last week that the most difficult place to be is leading a Grand Prix and obviously Felipe found that to be the case today. “If this is our worst weekend of the year we’ll take it.” Dennis: Malaysia result no cause for alarm MARK Webber has said that Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix has allowed him and his Red Bull Racing team a new insight into their on-track rivals and that their ability to fight with the likes of McLaren in a race situation has filled them with renewed confidence. “You learn a lot when you’re fighting, seeing those cars in the heat of the battle, because everyone’s, as we say in Australia, ‘racing for sheep stations’, and they’re fighting for everything they’ve got. “That’s when you learn the most. You can do 1000 laps at Barcelona, but you don’t necessarily learn a great deal. You learn something but not as much as under race conditions, so it’s good to be around those cars and I can see where we need to improve.” Webber said he had enjoyed the battles out on track, in particular his fight over the final laps with Fernando Alonso. “We overfilled the car a little bit on the last stop and I had to carry that through the last stint; plus when you’ve got someone behind you, you don’t have to drive totally on the limit – its best to keep hitting your braking points and making sure he doesn’t get a sniff – but then I thought I’d step on it a little bit at the end just to get rid of Fernando and I think he put the white flag up two or three laps from the end.” After a tough weekend for Red Bull Racing, and the disappointments of his home race in Australia, he confirmed that it was a relief to get some points on the board. “Points are really hard to get. There wasn’t much attrition today by the looks of it – obviously Felipe and that’s about your lot really – so for us to get points was a really good job by the whole team. “There’s normally three or four races where it’s a mess and you need to be around on those weekends, but today it was an absolute dog-fight and they weren’t handing the points out cheaply. We managed to get some at a tough venue where everybody was doing a good job. “The team knows where it wants to go and they’ve done a really good job to recover from a tough start this weekend and to get two points out of it was a credit to the whole team.” Learning in the heat of battle