The McLaren team go into this weekend’s unique “day-night” Abu Dhabi Grand Prix believing they can prevent the runaway Red Bull express from clinching the constructors’ world championship with two races to go.
McLaren sporting director Sam Michael said that differing track characteristics from one circuit to another could see the rampant Red Bull team’s advantage wiped out and give other teams a chance to win.
However, he admitted that it would be very difficult to catch them in the title race.
After four consecutive wins, including last Sunday’s comprehensive demonstration of supremacy from defending drivers’ champion Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull sit atop both championships after 17 of this year’s 20 races.
In the teams’ title race, Red Bull lead by 91 points with 407, ahead of Ferrari on 316 and McLaren on 306 — and will take the title if they leave Abu Dhabi with a lead of 86 points, or 87 if a McLaren driver wins the race.
This allows for many different permutations for title success, but the minimum for Red Bull is to finish first and eighth, or second and third, to take the title.
Michael, however, believes there is a good chance that McLaren, or Ferrari, can postpone celebrations in the paddock on Sunday night.
“The performance can swing from one track to another by a couple of tenths,” he said. “There are two or three tenths in terms of qualifying and, if you have that performance from [starting on] the front row, then you have a better chance.”
“So if no-one upgraded cars, there would still be a reasonable chance you can have a go at [Red Bull]. But in terms of the overall championship it is quite different, because they need to have DNFs [did not finish] for people to take the title and the chances of that happening are pretty slim,” he added.