Saturday March 17th, 2001
McLaren team chief Ron Dennis hit back at critics on Saturday and warned that only a lunatic would write off his drivers' chances of success in this year's Formula One World Championship.
Addressing questions after a disappointing qualifying session for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, Dennis said he was amazed at a trend of criticism of the Mercedes-Benz powered team in Germany.
"There is this trend which says that BMW has taken over on top now and that we are struggling," Dennis said. "This is absolutely lunacy...We are a very strong Grand Prix team and we know how to get on with this.
"We are going to knuckle down and show everyone. We are going to get the job done."
Criticism of the McLaren team, which runs on Bridgestone tyres, came from observers pointing out that they were now being out-performed by the BMW-powered and Michelin-shod Williams team.
On Saturday, German Ralf Schumacher of Williams qualified third behind the two Ferraris and ahead of both McLarens.
Dennis admitted that the team had faced up to several problems with the new MP4-16 cars and had been forced to compromise heavily in approach and set-up for the three opening 'flyaway' races in Australia, Malaysia and Brazil.
"We know we could have done a better job," he said after his drivers - former world champion Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard - had qualified fourth and eighth for Sunday's race.
"All the teams are affected by the new regulations and it depends how you cope with them and accommodate them.
"We know what to do but it will take a little time. We have got another step planned for Brazil but of course we don't know if that will be enough."
He added that there was not a car in the pit lane not suffering from understeer problems and that the McLaren team would show in the race how strong it was.
Dennis also told his regular Saturday news conference audience that he did not believe the fatal accident in Melbourne, where a marshall was killed, was caused by the increased speeds of the cars this year.
"That incident had nothing to do with the speeds," he said.