Melbourne, March 18, 2012 (AFP) - McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh said Jenson Button's victory in Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix was the winning start needed for the team to launch a confident title bid.
He said that the 32-year-old Briton's determined performance, along with team-mate Lewis Hamilton's third-place finish, confirmed that McLaren are ready to fight Red Bull for glory.
"Overall we should go away feeling reasonably pleased -- we've had a great win," said Whitmarsh of McLaren's first winning start since 2008.
"We've proved we've got a quick car and I think to start the season with a win.. really gives confidence to the team, and the belief to the team, that we can really win this championship."
He was full of praise for Button: "The calmness with which he controlled his pace was something special.
"People underestimate him -- he's such a calm, mature, easy-going fellow, that people don't realise necessarily that it is in him to compete and win."
"He's just got stronger and stronger since he's been in our team and he must fancy his chances of a real championship assault this year."
He continued: "Lewis was a little bit unlucky -- on the start, he just bogged down a little bit, so that's a combination of him and our engineers.
"We thought we had the pace, we were controlling it. We were a little bit short of fuel frankly, so we were having to monitor that very closely and measure our pace.
"And then we were a little bit unlucky with the safety car. So that was a little bit frustrating, but overall we can't be displeased with the weekend."
McLaren had just stopped both of their drivers simultaneously prior to the appearance of the safety car. But defending champion Sebastian Vettel was able to pit at the end of the next lap -- and take advantage of Hamilton being slowed by the controlled safety car lap time.
Whitmarsh said: "We couldn't predict it at all. Unfortunately at that second stop we came in and it was the right thing for us to do.
"Immediately after that, there was a safety car which gifted time to Sebastian... and allowed him to come in and effectively go out in front of Lewis."