McLaren aiming to defend their championship leads as the European leg kicks off

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Spain, Circuit de Catalunyaes

The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team drive down into Spain for their first non-flyaway event of the season in Montmelo, just outside of Barcelona. And the main goals are to keep both the constructor and driver championship leads after the race on Sunday evening, which is tough job considering the new points system and possible rain for the big day.

Jenson Button said, “The Spanish Grand Prix is a race I won last year, and I regard it as one of my best victories of the 2009 season. It’s a relatively high-speed circuit, and one that’s quite enjoyable to drive – provided your car is working properly. There are some fast corners, like Turn Nine and the final corner, but the majority of the track is made up of pretty long corners where you really need the car to do all the work. It’s a circuit that really rewards precision, and punishes aggression. And if you’ve got a car that wants to understeer, then you’re going to have a difficult race! Fortunately, our car does seem to have a very good neutral balance in the high-speed corners – it’s probably the most impressive aspect of the car – and we went well during pre-season testing, so I think we go into this weekend feeling pretty well prepared.

“Finally, I’m looking forward to returning to Europe. It’s been an incredibly exciting series of flyaway races, but I think everybody in Formula 1 looks forward to racing closer to home, back in the sport’s heartland.”

Lewis Hamilton said, “We’ve got a couple of fairly significant upgrades coming for this race. And while it would be naïve to think that these will move us up the pecking order – because almost all the teams produce a major bodywork update for Barcelona – we’re optimistic that they’ll once again help us to bridge the gap to the leading cars. And, of course, we’ve proved in the past that we’ve been both extremely capable and prolific at adding performance to the car across the course of the season, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be heading into Barcelona in good shape.

“If it’s a dry race, then, realistically, I think it’s going to be harder for us to be up at the front. As we did in China, we’ll be putting additional emphasis on qualifying; it will be more important than ever in Barcelona as, traditionally, it’s always been a track where overtaking is very difficult. Given that most cars will only be stopping once, we have a less scope for passing, so a good grid position will be vital here.”

Martin Whitmarsh Team principal, commented, “In recent years, we’ve produced successful cars with inherent performance characteristics that enable them to perform better in slower corners. While we haven’t overlooked high-speed performance, it’s not typically been our strongest area – and that might explain our recent loss of form around Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

“For 2010, however, we feel we have a car that generally excels in high-speed corners, and while that in itself, isn’t enough to suggest a complete reversal of our recent fortunes in Spain, we feel that the useful upgrades we’re bringing to this race, which include new front and rear wings, will help us consolidate our position among the leaders and, hopefully, enable us to close the gap to the cars at the front.

“Despite leading both world championships, we are still working tremendously hard to bring additional performance to MP4-25. That has meant a tireless fortnight of work back at the McLaren Technology Centre, which was only minimally disrupted by the recent air travel problems across Europe.

“In addition, Spain will mark the beginning of the European campaign, the return to our home from home in the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Brand Centre, and the debut of an exciting new visual identity inside the garage, which will feature a completely new look. It’s a race we’re all looking forward to enormously.”