McLaren aims to deliver in Melbourne

Updated: 23 March 2011 12:06 IST

With two former world champions behind the wheel, McLaren is ready to brush off some less-than-impressive testing sessions and perform strongly in this weekend's Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

McLaren aims to deliver in Melbourne

Melbourne:

With two former world champions behind the wheel, McLaren is ready to brush off some less-than-impressive testing sessions and perform strongly in this weekend's Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton acknowledged that while testing had been tougher than the team expected, he still backs the potential of the new MP4-26 car.

"We can't hide the fact that testing has been tougher than we expected. Our test mileage hasn't been as high as that of our rivals, nor have we had the outright pace of the fastest cars," the 2008 world champions said.

McLaren had a tough time testing at Barcelona this month, with problems slowing and turning on the new Pirelli tires, and with moveable rear wing complications.

"Still, I have a good feeling with MP4-26. I like driving our car, it will look after its tires quite well and I understand that we'll be making further performance steps ahead of this opening race," Hamilton said.

Hamilton could only manage fourth place finish in the drivers standings last season, while Button, who joined the team in 2010 after winning the 2009 world title with Brawn, finished fifth. McLaren last won the constructors title in 1998 and came second last year.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the team set some "extremely ambitious performance targets" for its car in testing.

"In some cases we've pushed over those limits, and the resulting lack of mileage has invariably eaten into our preseason preparation," Whitmarsh said. "However, it's called testing for a reason and testing MP4-26 beyond its limit has in some ways been highly instructive ... we've gathered a huge amount of useful data about the car, its handling characteristics and its management of the tires."

While Whitmarsh readily acknowledges McLaren's chief rivals Red Bull and Ferrari deserve favoritism for the Australian GP, he expects the team to "surprise a few people and be competitive."

Button, who is gunning for a third straight Melbourne GP win, is understandably a fan of the Albert Park track.

"It's a great circuit for racing, it always seems to create unpredictable races and, perhaps because it's habitually at the start of the season when a precise pecking order has yet to be established, we often see fast cars running out of sequence," Button said.

"I'm regularly being asked if I can make it three wins in a row this year. On paper that might not look likely, but ... I most definitely wouldn't rule it out."

Topics : Formula 1 McLaren Lewis Hamilton Australian Grand Prix
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