NURBURGRING, Germany, July 21, 2011 (AFP) - McLaren believe they can bounce back from a disappointing performance in front of their home fans to lead the fight against Sebastian Vettel in this weekend's German Grand Prix.
British duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, champions in 2008 and 2009 respectively, were left trailing at Silverstone two weeks ago as Spaniard Fernando Alonso secured Ferrari's first win this year ahead of the two Red
But McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale said his team believe that result was down to a dramatic change in technical regulations that has now been overturned - and not the underlying performance of the teams.
Neale said: "When you look at Silverstone, the impact of the engine regulations and rules cost us more than both Ferrari and Red Bull -- and that is a matter of fact, not opinion.
"We probably went backwards relative to them by about seven-tenths of a second and that's why we found ourselves dropping back. Up until then, we were the only ones putting up a creditable fight against Red Bull.
"Both of our drivers have won races this year and we're not by any means being complacent about the progress that Ferrari has made, or the development of Red Bull, but our job is to beat both of them and that's what we're going to do.
"F1 isn't something you can play safe in. It's about taking risks and getting the balance right. And clearly when you are coming from behind, as we and Ferrari are, then you have to work very hard at that.
"In terms of car development, it means that we have to push very hard to close the gap."
He also suggested that Button and Hamilton should be able to fight on equal terms with Ferrari and Red Bull this weekend and have not given up on the season.
German defending champion Vettel, 24, comfortably leads the title race with 204 points ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber on 124, with Alonso third on 112 and Hamilton and Button level fourth on 109 points.
Speaking during a phone-in on Wednesday, Neale also brushed aside speculation suggesting that McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh was under pressure following the team's Silverstone flop.
"We looked at things, smiled and moved on," he said. Like everyone else, Neale knows that the combination this year of an
in-form Vettel and a standard-setting Red Bull car have been almost unbeatable -- but he refuses to give up.
"We will continue to push as hard as we can and so will our drivers and the whole team," he said.
Meanwhile, Vettel himself travels to the track in confident mood. He said: "One of the objectives a Formula One driver sets himself, is to win his 'home race'. Of course, you always give 100 per cent -- but at a home race you're always more motivated, simply because you feel at home.
"This year we're back at the Nurburgring, which is one of the better and more modern tracks -- I particularly like the stretch from the Ford corner to the 180° long right corner in the valley.
"And the Eifel mountains are very special, too, because the weather can change there as quick as lightning from one thing to another. We know what to expect and we are working hard so I am hoping for the best."