LONDON, Aug 19, 2011 (AFP) - McLaren team chief Martin Whitmarsh sounded the first fighting notes ahead of Formula One's resumption of racing hostilities next week by claiming both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are still in with a chance of winning the drivers' world title.
As the F1 teams began to return to work after their summer holidays, an upbeat Whitmarsh said the task facing his men was tough, "but not impossible." McLaren have been in resurgent form and won three of the five races before the sport's August break - and will hope to carry on winning in next weekend's (Aug 28) Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
Although defending champion German Sebastian Vettel, 24, has a lead of 88 points ahead of Hamilton in the standings, and 11 on Button, Whitmarsh believes the Red Bull driver is not likely to have it all his own way any longer.
"I would say I think it's tough, but it's possible," said Whitmarsh. "Winning races is tough, but I think all you can do is try to win every race. You can't do more than that. It is difficult to pull back the gap, but it's possible.
"Of course people focus on the championship, but I think if you are not leading the championship then you can't worry too much about it. "I'd like a one-two and it'd be handy if a Red Bull was not the third car on the podium if we get a one-two and so we'd welcome Ferrari on the podium as well!
"We never give up. We've never been a quitter and this time isn't one. So, whatever happens we are going to try to win every race and that's the great challenge for us now..."
Ferrari's lead driver, two-times champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso, won the British Grand Prix in July and has led a Ferrari revival that may also threaten Red Bull's earlier dominance - and help pave the way for a more unpredictable second half to the season.
Whitmarsh said: "If you had asked me in Australia to give you a prediction, I couldn't have given you one. What I can predict is that we will be working bloody hard trying to win every race that we can.
"We have two great drivers, a great team, the car's not bad and we've made some good progress. We can keep this momentum and then we can win more races -- and then the championship is possible.. Tough, yes -- but possible..."
And he added that following his recent outstanding performance and victory at the German Grand Prix, Hamilton, 26, the 2008 champion, is now in the mood for more just like Hungarian victor and fellow-Briton Button, 31.
Whitmarsh said: "Yes, I think the positive one is that his head's now in a great place, because he (Hamilton) suddenly believes he can win -- and there's lap-time in that. "I think Lewis desperately wants to win. I think he's tough on himself. He still takes too much to heart what's said in the media.
"I think he has a little bit too much sensitivity about that, but he will learn. At the same time he is a young man, he gets a lot more attention, a lot more pressure and a lot more expectation. "We are trying to help. We are trying to work with the media. I'm probably a bit more cynical than Lewis, but at the same time I probably don't get quite the battering that Lewis usually gets!"