ISTANBUL, May 9, 2011 (AFP) - Ferrari and McLaren may not have won Sunday's Turkish Grand Prix, but both departed the Istanbul Park circuit determined to demonstrate that with more updates to their cars they will mount a serious
challenge to Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel.
The 23-year-old defending world champion reeled off his third win in four races this year to open a clear 34-points lead at the top of the embryonic drivers' title race, but, like his boss, conceded that he and his team will not always enjoy such comfortable afternoons.
Team chief Christian Horner said: "The bottom line is that things can change so quickly. Fernando (Alonso) gave us a hard time in Turkey and nobody else seemed to be in the same ballpark, but two weeks or three weeks ago it was McLaren and then it looked like Mercedes had made a step.
"So once you hit the sweet spot, there is quite a big performance return from that, and I think we cannot afford to be complacent. We will just keep our heads down, keep trying to optimise and keep trying to learn and get
performance to the car.
"This was our 18th win in two and a bit years, so we have come a long way and we are building on that experience."
He added: "It is fantastic to be heading to Barcelona with a 43-point lead in the constructors' championship, and Sebastian is 34 points clear in the drivers'. That is fantastic, but as we all know, those points can vanish pretty quickly.
"We gave away 43 points pretty easily in Turkey last year, so this was a very sweet victory here to achieve a one-two 12 months on." Horner's caution came as Ferrari began to show signs of growing confidence in their ability to bounce back from a poor start to the season following their first podium finish, claimed in Turkey by two-times champion Spaniard
Alonso, behind the Red Bull men Vettel and Australian Mark Webber. The Italians, under pressure from president Luca di Montezemolo, ran into problems with calibration issues at their Maranello wind tunnel, but now seem to have resolved them and made some progress.
Team chief Stefano Domenicali said: "At least what we have seen this weekend is going in the right direction and I expect another step in Spain, at Barcelona.
"But what I am saying to my people is -- don't expect the others to stay asleep. All the other competitors will react and improve and this year will be a very challenging season.
"We have seen that Red Bull has the fastest and most reliable car, but we will see what else. The pressure could also be on their side to keep that level of performance - so we will try to put pressure on them, and when you have pressure you make mistakes."
He added: "Overall we have improved - and the gaps in qualifying have reduced. In race pace we had reduced that too but it was already good. The outcome is that we need to improve in qualifying and we need to do that starting in Spain."
McLaren also expect to be faster and more competitive at the Circuit de
Catalunya and could be joined among the front-runners again by Mercedes. In Istanbul, Lewis Hamilton and fellow-Briton Jenson Button finished fourth and sixth respectively.
But team chief Martin Whitmarsh said: "Frankly, we didn't bring all the developments we wanted here so we weren't quite as quick as we wanted to be -- and when you're not you lose places.
"We didn't quite achieve what we wanted in qualifying, then if you then lose places at the start of the race it's very difficult to recover from that. This weekend has been a bit tricky really so I think to leave with Lewis (Hamilton) still second in the championship is a reasonable situation.
"But we had a number of things go wrong this weekend. We had some exciting moments with our drivers on the race track and we had some exciting moments in the pit-lane."I hope it was a good show! We were a bit disappointed. Let's see if we can do a better job in Spain."
A glimpse of the McLaren electrifying battle.