McLaren inherited a second podium position to go along with the first achieved by Formula One debutante Kevin Magnussen once Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from second place.
But while McLaren owed its Melbourne results in part due to reliability, it admits it doesn’t yet have the pace to challenge fellow Mercedes-powered teams Mercedes AMG and Williams, per racing director Eric Boullier.
In a teleconference Wednesday, Boullier said they achieved their goal of strong points, and now need to refine the MP4-29 chassis to improve the pace.
“We focused a lot of our winter on building a solid and reliable car, because we believed – and Australia confirmed our strategy – that reliability was key to taking big points at the beginning of the season,” he told reporters.
“It is true now that we are pushing very aggressively on performance development – we need to clearly catch up the gap to Mercedes and also some others.”
Jenson Button is a past Malaysia winner (the rain-shortened 2009 race) while Magnussen will make his inaugural appearance at the Sepang International Circuit next week.
Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.
Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.
Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.
“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.
“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”
Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.
“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.
“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”