Whitmarsh: Button's a contender

Martin Whitmarsh

Martin Whitmarsh

First published in National Sport News © by

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh feels Jenson Button can firmly believe he has a realistic shot at this year's Formula One world title.

Button produced a stunning drive to claim his 13th career victory in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, the third time in the last four years he has triumphed around Melbourne's Albert Park.

"He has such a mature, laid-back, easy manner that belies the underlying hunger to win he possesses," said Whitmarsh. "He must now believe he's in with a good chance of a proper title run this year, and I think he is."

The victory was no fluke and there was no adverse weather conditions for Button to master, as has been the case with a number of previous victories.

Instead, after Button passed team-mate Lewis Hamilton on the run down to the first corner, he proceeded to dominate for 57 of the 58 laps with seemingly effortless ease.

There is an obvious danger of getting too carried away after just one race, but as far as Whitmarsh is concerned the early signs are promising.

"He has just got stronger and stronger," said Whitmarsh of Button, who is now in his third year with the team. "Providing we can continue to improve the car, not make mistakes and be reliable, there's no reason why we cannot recapture that (the title)."

Given McLaren are renowned for their rate of development, there is the obvious hope that after starting the season strongly - rarely for them - they can continue in such a vein.

Often in the past McLaren have been forced to play catch up, but on this occasion Whitmarsh said: "We are starting from the right place. We know we have to improve the car on a race-by-race basis, but we've some formidable competitors in Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, and Lotus look strong as well.

"It is pretty tight, as it should be. This is F1. It should be difficult to win, and it is. But we're already looking forward to this weekend (in Malaysia). We do fancy our chances there, but who knows. Let's see how we go."

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