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McLaren podiums still unlikely - Michael

ESPN Staff
September 3, 2013 « Ricciardo won't be a No.2 driver - Horner | Mercedes applying Spa's lessons to Monza »
Sam Michael doesn't think the McLaren is quick enough to score a podium on merit © Associated Press
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McLaren's sporting director Sam Michael has admitted that his team's aim of scoring podiums will be tough to achieve on merit.

McLaren's best result of 2013 remains Jenson Button's fifth place finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix, although the team has closed in on the front-running pace at recent races. Nevertheless, Michael said the gap to Red Bull and Mercedes is not likely to be closed before the end of the season.

"If you look at the last couple of races, in Budapest and Spa, we've definitely improved our performance," he told the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. "It's not where we need to be as McLaren, but previous to those last two races we didn't have the ability to run with some of the top cars and indeed challenge them. But it's still a gap between us and Red Bull and a decent gap between us and Mercedes as well. If you look at the other teams such as Lotus and Ferrari we are getting close.

"Spa was a good race for us and we finished sixth there on merit - no-one dropped out. There was nothing unusual about the race that resulted in us inheriting the positions, so it was done on pace. Monza should be good for us as well, but it will be difficult to score a podium based on merit between now and the end of the year, particularly because we are starting to focus on the 2014 car.

"Although we are still bringing parts to the [2013] car, they are not the normal sort of intricate developments you would bring to push in a performance race against other teams, they are parts as a result of studies for 2014. They can still be quite effective, but they are less known in terms of looking forward three or four races to know what is coming. To predict a podium before the end of the year is quite tricky to know when that will happen but we will keep pushing until the last race to try and make that happen."

However, Michael is confident McLaren is now in a position not to make similar mistakes on next year's car.

"I think the main thing is to fully understand where we went wrong and I think we've got a pretty firm handle on that now, but with not as much ability to change that back during the season as we would like," he added. "As long as we understand that we should be able to avoid that error in the future. That's definitely been the big focus internally at McLaren.

"Looking at the rule changes now, if anything, they take the car in a different direction yet again, so you're almost forced into taking risks. With this year's car we took too many risks compared to what we had to, considering we were winning grands prix towards the end of last year. We know that, we know that we've made a mistake and we've had a many an engineering discussion about that internally and we know what we are doing going forward.

"The team of guys that designed this car are the same team of guys that designed the winning cars previously. They are all the same team of designers, engineers and technicians, and we've got every confidence that they can do the same thing again next year."