• Changes for German grand prix may bridge gap to leaders
• Paul Di Resta looks to a future away from Force India
Jenson Button is optimistic that McLaren’s new package of upgrades, their biggest of the season, that they have brought to the German Grand Prix will provide a significant increase in form after lacklustre recent performances that caused them to slip to fourth in the constructors’ championship. The changes will be crucial in a season where the racing is so close and the ability to develop the car at the fastest pace may well decide the title.
The team held a technical review meeting in the wake of their home race, when Lewis Hamilton could manage only eighth from eighth on the grid and Button 10th from sixteenth. The sense of urgency also informed additional advances that were accelerated to be ready for Germany.
“It’s the biggest upgrades we’ve had all year by a long way and it’s something that really two of the top teams have done already and we haven’t – one is Red Bull and one is Ferrari,” explained Button.
He believes the gap with McLaren’s two main rivals can be narrowed. “We haven’t gone backwards, we’re still moving forwards, just not at the rate of knots that those guys are. It is very difficult to find improvements with the limited regulations these days but they’ve been able to do it and we haven’t – but I would say that we have now,” he said.
The changes include internal mechanical upgrades as well as alterations to the sidepods and the brake ducts. Button and his team deny these are emergency measures being applied in the wake of Silverstone.
“We didn’t sit down and shout at each other,” he said. “We looked at what we failed to do and how we are going to make it right in the future. A lot of them [upgrades] are for this race but some of them have been pushed through a bit quicker,” he said.
Button has struggled, more so than his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with switching his car and tyres in differing conditions, specifically in achieving a set-up that enables his tyres to reach their narrow operating window and stay there. Currently 79 points behind the championship leader, Fernando Alonso, he will be hoping that the upgrades, which will at least partly be based around the crucial tyre operating temperatures, offer an immediate chance for him to challenge the leaders on a level playing field.
Meanwhile Britain’s Paul Di Resta was bullish about his position in Formula One before the first day’s practice. His contract with Force India does not run out until 2013 but, with the status of several front-line drives (including Hamilton’s) still to be decided, Di Resta has said he intends to pursue all opportunities to ensure he remains within the sport, while his team would not prevent him moving should the opportunity arise.
“The biggest thing for me is to make sure I’m in a Formula One car next year because that’s where I want to be,” he said, pointing to the races here at Hockenheim and in Hungary as crucial. “Two big weekends before the August break and I believe that’s the time to make sure you’re putting yourself in the right places and making sure you know what you’re doing.”
He will be undertaking any negotiation himself after splitting with his manager, Hamilton’s father, Anthony, several weeks ago. The latter had been instrumental in securing him the drive at Force India.
Di Resta’s two main options would be Mercedes and Ferrari. The former have yet to confirm whether Michael Schumacher will drive for them next season and already have a relationship as engine supplier to Force India. Schumacher’s interest seems undiminished, particularly after the first top-three finish of his comeback two races ago in Valencia, while the team principal, Ross Brawn, would almost certainly want to keep racing alongside the driver with whom he won so many world championships at Ferrari.
Webber admitted last week that he had held talks with Ferrari before committing to Red Bull, suggesting the Italian team are already considering replacements for Felipe Massa. Di Resta feels no fear at the possibility of teaming up with the team’s No1 driver and double world champion, Alonso. “I’ve never feared anybody and why should I?” he said. “End of the day they are all human, I’ve raced against the best of people in the various classes and beat them. I’m quite happy.”