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McLaren ready for scrap

MONZA, September 3- Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button may be friends and team-mates, but both are close rivals for the world championship and each has his own goals as he enters the run-in to the end of the season.Yet while Red Bull’s oft-warring pairing of impetuous German Sebastian Vettel and Australian Mark Webber scrap for any advantage between them in their own battle for the title, the McLaren pair appear to have no tensions.

Hamilton, the 2008 champion and current leader by just three points ahead of Webber, has made clear he has no problem in McLaren giving equal and identical support and machinery to his team-mate.

His only concern, he said this week, is that he can focus on his job and set out to complete a personal collection of four classic Formula One wins by adding the Italian Grand Prix to his victories achieved already at Monaco, Silverstone and Spa.

And while he has been doing that – to help prepare his mind for the job next weekend at Monza – his team-mate has maintained his own faith in his ability to overhaul everyone by making up a 35-points deficit to retain his crown.

By contrast, the Red Bull drivers have kept a low profile this week following Vettel’s bizarre crash-hit race in Belgium where the superior Webber took second place behind Hamilton.

Webber’s pithy quotes, when required, and calm silences when not speak of a man at ease in his own skin as the season simmers towards a natural conclusion.

But he knows that to win the title he has to finish ahead of the confident British duo who have the experience of previous title triumphs and all of McLaren’s decades at the top behind them.

"It is too soon to write anybody off, but it is interesting to see how the next few weeks are going to pan out isn’t it?" said Webber. "You look at the McLaren pair and just wonder, but then you look at us and wonder too, I guess."

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Hamilton has made life easy for himself by taking the whole thing race by race and working on his own targets and goals.

He said: "I’ve always looked at those four circuits on the calendar as being a little more special than the others," he said.

"I remember, a couple of years ago, David Coulthard saying he was proud to win those four Grands Prix for McLaren because they somehow connected him to the history of the sport.

"I know exactly what he means. It’s because those venues – Monaco, Monza, Silverstone and Spa — are unique. They’re very special. You can feel the history at those races more than anywhere else.

"That’s why I was so pleased and proud to have finally won at Spa last weekend, because it’s a giant of the sport — and it means something to every driver who’s ever raced there."

Button, who was eliminated from last Sunday’s race when Vettel crashed into him, has made clear he remains a contender despite his setback.

"I was very dejected after the race and was very down, but in reality 35 points is not that much," he said.

"If you look in the old money of last year’s points system, it equates to 14 – which is not a lot of points. It is a win and a fifth place, so it is all still to play for and, as it heats up in the last six races, there is going to be a lot more action.

"It will be about staying out of trouble and every race I go to I have to be fighting for victory."

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The 30-year-old Englishman added, in support of Hamilton and McLaren, that he was confident they would work together fairly and properly for the rest of the season.

"It’s a very fair team. We’ve seen that in the past — and that’s why I wanted to join this team. I’ve got a great team-mate in Lewis, we’ve both won world championships in the past — and the great thing is we are given equal equipment."

Button also revealed that Vettel had phoned him after last Sunday’s race to apologise.

"Seb called me in the evening to apologise for the accident he caused, which was good, but it doesn’t give me my points back," he said.


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