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GP Week : Issue 170
McLAREN: SUZUKA “DECENT DAMAGE LIMITATION” 30 GPWEEK.com // 30 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> SUZUKA McLaren described taking 22 points from Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka as “a decent bit of damage limitation”. Both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton seemed strong during free practice but were unable to carry that pace over to qualifying, leaving the Red Bull pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber to dominate the front row of the grid. Button went on to set the third quickest time in Q3 but was demoted to eighth for a gearbox change, putting him just ahead of team-mate Hamilton. The McLaren duo managed to escape the chaos that ensued on the opening lap, which side-lined championship leader Fernando Alonso and left RBR’s Webber out of position at the back of the field. Button eventually finished fourth with Hamilton fifth, to claim 22 valuable championship points for the Woking- based McLaren outfit. But while the gap to Alonso has been decreased in the Drivers’ standings, victory for Vettel in Japan has allowed Red Bull to stretch its advantage at the top of the Constructors’ table. "When you consider that Red Bull's drivers lined up for this afternoon's race from P1 and P2, and our two drivers started it from P8 and P9, the fact that they extended their Constructors' championship lead over us by just five points has to be seen as a decent bit of damage limitation on our part,” said McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh. "Both Jenson and Lewis drove good and combative races, scoring 22 world championship points between them; but, obviously, given our impressive points- scoring record over the past few grands prix, we'd hoped to achieve rather better than fourth and fifth when we arrived in Suzuka earlier this week.” It’s clear that Vettel has the momentum at this critical juncture in the championship and Whitmarsh says his McLaren team will have to “dig deep” in order to take the fight to Red Bull during the final five races. "From Japan we fly to South Korea, where we'll be looking to score strongly,” said Whitmarsh. “All at McLaren will dig very deep over the final five races in a big effort to ensure that we're right there, in the mix, competing for ultimate honours, when the dust finally settles on what's shaping up to be an extremely exciting battle.”