McLaren’s decision to delay the launch of their 2011 car until after this year's first official pre-season test may have sparked concern from fans and consternation from their rivals, but the British team are positive the strategy will pay off in the long run. McLaren will run an interim car at the Valencia session from February 1-3, ahead of the MP4-26’s unveiling on February 4.
Presentation of the car for the 2009 championship
As well as having extra time to hone the new car back at their Woking factory, they will have the advantage of testing the new Pirellli rubber at the Spanish track with a familiar set-up. As a result, team principal Martin Whitmarsh is confident the benefits of launching the 2011 challenger later far outweigh any drawbacks.
“The MP4-26 is on schedule and will be launched on February 4, after which it will go through the normal testing processes,” Whitmarsh told Formula1.com. “We feel that timetable is optimal with regard to providing Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton with the best possible package for the first race in Bahrain.”
As well as feeling positive about the team’s schedule, Whitmarsh is pleased with how the new car is shaping up. Moveable rear wings and the return of KERS are just two of the regulation changes coming into force this season, and the Briton revealed the design of the MP4-26 will push the boundaries of the necessary alterations and boast several new features.
“There are new regulations for 2011 - and the MP4-26 will not only adhere to them but it will also sport a few fresh design features in response to the opportunities presented by those new regulations,” said Whitmarsh. “So, yes, there will be some new elements, but as you can imagine I’m not prepared to add more detail at the moment!”
Last season the team’s innovative F-duct system was widely copied by their rivals, and McLaren must be hopeful their 2011 developments will prove just as successful. Certainly Whitmarsh is feeling confident about what the team can achieve this season.
“Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ mission is a unilateral one: to win,” he concluded. “We won five Grands Prix last year, including three one-two finishes, and we came second in the constructors’ championship, significantly ahead of our traditional rivals, Ferrari. But although many teams would be more than satisfied with that performance, we weren’t and aren’t.
“As I say, our mission is to win, and winning five Grands Prix and coming second in the constructors’ championship doesn’t constitute enough of a win for us. It goes without saying that this year we aim to do better. As ever, it’s impossible to make firm predictions, but we think we’re on course to be competitive. Having said that, we never underestimate our opposition and we’re sure they’re working every bit as hard as we are.”
McLaren will join their rivals at Valencia on February 1, fielding their interim car. The MP4-26 will then make its on-track debut a week later at the second test, which will take place at Jerez from February 10-13.