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McLaren see hope on the horizon
May 29, 2006 19:13 IST
McLaren believe they are closing the performance gap on Formula One champions Renault despite still being without a win this season.
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya finished second behind Renault's Fernando Alonso in Monaco on Sunday, McLaren's 40th anniversary race, and sounded more confident than in a long time as he looked ahead to next week's British Grand Prix.
Montoya won at Silverstone last year and, even if Monaco's tight and twisty streets present a unique challenge, hoped he could compete with Renault again.
"From where we've been in the last few races, it's shown that McLaren and Mercedes have stepped up their game quite a lot and we're fighting them," he said of Sunday's glamour race won convincingly by Renault's Fernando Alonso.
"Now the important thing is to try and translate this into the next few races."
"I think we've improved our pace, I think we're closing up a little bit to Renault," added the Colombian. "They're still a little bit quicker than us on normal circuits but we're definitely heading in the right direction."
Montoya's team mate Kimi Raikkonen was second for much of Sunday's race, and believed he had the strategy to win, until a heat shield caught fire and forced his retirement.
The Finn, who was rarely more than a second off Alonso's pace, agreed that the team has made progress, as did his boss Ron Dennis.
"At least we were very competitive and our target is to maintain the momentum into Silverstone," said Dennis.
Leaders Renault are 41 points clear of third placed McLaren in the constructors' standings after seven races, with world champion Alonso -- a McLaren driver next year -- having won 64 out of a possible 70 points so far.
The Spaniard has a stranglehold on the championship, 21 points clear of Michael Schumacher and 37 ahead of third-placed Raikkonen.
McLaren were helped by Ferrari's virtual absence from Sunday's race, with seven-times world champion Schumacher starting from the pit lane after being demoted from pole in a qualifying controversy that overshadowed the weekend.
His Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa compounded Ferrari's woes by crashing in the first qualifying session and starting from the back of the grid.
Although Schumacher managed to claw his way back to fifth, that did not impress Montoya.
"Last year I started last and finished fourth," he said.
Montoya's memory was playing tricks with him, however. Last year he was also fifth in Monaco, behind Alonso in a race won by Raikkonen.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage