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McLaren not giving up

MONZA, September 14- McLaren team chief Martin Whitmarsh on Monday predicted a thrilling fight for this year's Formula One world championship over the closing five races of the season.The McLaren boss was quick to confirm that he believed his drivers would be involved all the way after his defending champion Jenson Button finish second behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber leads the standings on 187 points from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton (182) with Alonso jumping to third on 166 points – Button occupies fourth place one point further back.

In the constructor’s championship Red Bull lead on 350 points from McLaren (347) and Ferrari (290).

Whitmarsh promised his team will give everything they can to grab glory in both the drivers’ and teams’ title races.

After seeing two time former champion Alonso steal a narrow win thanks to a phenomenal Ferrari pit-stop, Whitmarsh was understandably defensive about McLaren’s decision to call in Button one lap before Alonso – a move that was widely viewed as handing the race to Alonso and Ferrari, much to the delight of the tifosi, at the final European race of the year.

He said: "The timing of pit-stops is always an inexact science – but, once we saw that Robert (Kubica) was immediately lapping quicker on ‘prime’ tyres after his pit-stop, we resolved to put Jenson on primes straight away.

"That was a logical and therefore sensible thing to do. But, even so, Fernando (Alonso) was just able to squeeze ahead when he in turn made his pit-top.

"It was incredibly close and I’m sure it made edge-of-the-seat TV viewing, but on this occasion it went our opponents’ way rather than our way, but that’s racing."

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Button finished second, three seconds adrift of Alonso, and afterwards blamed his McLaren team for a mistaken strategy that left him chasing to the finish instead of leading the way as he had for 36 laps of the 53-laps race.

"I know it is a good result for me to finish second, but it is not the same as feeling good and standing up there on the top step," he said.

Whitmarsh also defended Hamilton whose impetuosity on the opening lap saw him collide with Brazilian Felipe Massa, in the second Ferrari, and crash out of the race.

He said: "It was disappointing for Lewis, but Ferrari were quick and drove a great race. We stopped but it didn’t quite work out. Lewis was trying hard at the outset but it didn’t come off. It was a racing incident. It’s still tight and we are in for a very exciting championship. Jenson drove a fantastic race."

He added: "Lewis made a very strong start, and was his usual forceful self on lap one. We’ve often seen that trademark lap-one forcefulness herald an equally combative race drive from him, but on this occasion he got involved in what I’d describe as a racing incident.

"Again, that’s racing. When I was asked after the race why Lewis didn’t pull over to the side of the track after the impact, my answer was: ‘Lewis is a racer, and racers keep driving till the wheels fall off – literally.’ And we wouldn’t want him any other way."

Whitmarsh said he still felt McLaren’s British duo had a great chance to win the championship.

"Looking forward, there are five more rounds to go and the points situation in both the drivers’ world championship and the constructors’ world championship is extremely close," he said.

"So it’s all to play for — and you can be well sure that we at McLaren will be giving it absolutely everything we’ve got!"

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Five races remain — in Singapore, Japan, Korea, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, where the final round takes place on November 14.

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