Whitmarsh concerned about McLaren pace

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Following a highly disappointing showing in both Friday practice sessions, Martin Whitmarsh has acknowledged that McLaren are struggling to match the pace of their rivals.

“I think we should be worried about the pace. It is a tough day in the office for everyone at the moment, we are lacking grip and there is a lot of head scratching at the moment, but certainly we are lacking pace.”

Free Practice 2 saw three-time Melbourne winner Jenson Button finish down in eleventh, with teammate Sergio Perez even further back in thirteenth. Button has made public that McLaren are focusing on developing their car throughout the season, but it appears the move has caused such struggles this weekend.

“I think we are still learning and there is a lot we still need to learn about this car,” said Whitmarsh. “But we have struggled frankly to quite understand how it is performing – understanding the tires and the car.”

The McLaren team principal did make clear that the team would be working hard to rectify the situation in time for the race on Sunday.

“As of today we are still undoubtedly struggling and that is something we need to gather good information on and work through it this weekend.”

With the top four teams separated by less than one second, McLaren will be concerned about the 2.3 second gap that was apparent in FP2. Button and Perez will be aiming to qualify in the top ten on Saturday, and if they can get to grips with the tires in time for the race a strong result may be possible.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”