McLaren talk up Button chances

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh is delighted with the start McLaren have made to the season and believes that Jenson Button is a real contender to Sebastian Vettel for the 2012 World Drivers’ Championship (Vettel 7/4 Fav, Button 5/2 Outright).

The British ace has been cut in the betting after a dominant victory in the season-opener at the Australian Grand Prix – his third success in four season at Albert Park – to hold the early advantage in the standings.

Vettel managed to finish second but McLaren are now the clear 8/11 favourites to claim the Constructors’ Championship as Lewis Hamilton came home third.

The Woking-based outfit have not traditionally begun the season well but have got off to a flier this year and Whitmarsh is already looking forward to the next race, the Malaysian Grand Prix, this weekend.

“We are starting from the right place,” Whitmarsh said. “It is pretty tight, as it should be. This is F1. It should be difficult to win, and it is.

“But we’re already looking forward to this weekend (in Malaysia). We do fancy our chances there, but who knows. Let’s see how we go.”

The reigning double world champion will be confident of getting his first win on the board as he has won the last two races at Sepang, and he is installed as the 9/4 favourite in the Race Winner betting, ahead of Button and Hamilton, who are both priced at 11/4.

Whitmarsh is refusing to get carried away about the prospects for the rest of the season but insists that Button will be pushing Vettel all the way, providing the team continues to back him up.

“He must now believe he’s in with a good chance of a proper title run this year, and I think he is,” Whitmarsh added.

“Providing we can continue to improve the car, not make mistakes and be reliable, there’s no reason why we cannot recapture that.”

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