Formula One team McLaren-Mercedes principal Martin Whitmarsh is hoping that his team will be at least a second faster than their competitors in Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
McLaren's new car, the MP4-26, has been off-pace compared to competitors Red Bull and Ferrari, despite sacrificing the first pre-season test at Valencia to fine-tune the car. Whitmarsh confirmed that the team had taken a risk in adding new parts to the car, including a new floor and exhaust system, aimed at creating aerodynamic downforce before the Australian Grand Prix. He also admitted that the two extra weeks of preparation, after the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix, was of immense help.
We have a completely new floor and a new exhaust system. There are a lot of other bits and pieces, but they're the clear and obvious ones that people will see in Australia. I'd say it is a simpler design than we've had before, I think the exhaust systems have become quite extreme on quite a lot of the cars; I think we in particular had very extreme solutions but I think that they were not delivering, in my opinion, sufficient benefits for their complexity.
He went on, The changes are intended to deliver more than a second in performance. We hope the risks we have taken come off and we are competitive. The exhaust systems have become quite a lot more extreme on quite a lot of the cars. I think we, in particular, had very extreme solutions, but I think they were not delivering, in my opinion, sufficient benefits for their complexity.
I think the car isn't a bad car, I think we need to unlock the exhaust-blowing potential. We had some very creative ideas, some of which could have worked spectacularly well, but in order to work spectacularly well they had to be sufficiently durable to be raceable - and frankly some of our solutions weren't. He continued.
So we had to go a little back, but in doing so we found some interesting performance. I think it will still be a challenging weekend, but that we will put on more than a second from the final test.
I wasn't satisfied with our reliability or pace in the tests this year. We've taken a risk to quite significantly change the car going into Australia, and if it (the car) is reliable and quick, then the extra two weeks will have been very crucial indeed.