What a difference a year could make for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said in the team’s official pre-Australian Grand Prix release that just scoring points, rather than contending from the off, is the team’s goal.
“Undoubtedly, it has great potential – and we fly to Melbourne determined to show well and to score points that should establish us in good stead for both the drivers’ and the constructors’ world championships,” Whitmarsh said of the car’s chances.
McLaren set the pace in Australia a year ago with a sweep of the front row, led by the now departed Lewis Hamilton. Meanwhile in the race, Jenson Button romped to his third Australian GP victory in four seasons.
Whitmarsh said though that in testing, the new McLaren has struggled to get the new 2013 Pirelli tire compounds up to the proper temperatures.
“We’ve faced a challenging few weeks prepping our new MP4-28 for the 2013 season,” he said. “The often cold and sometimes wet conditions we experienced during pre-season testing in Barcelona and Jerez made it difficult to operate the tires consistently within their optimal performance window. That issue, combined with a handful of typical testing setbacks, gave us a few headaches, but as ever our engineers and mechanics did extremely well to complete as much useful running as they did.”
Button was generally more optimistic, noting the varying degrees of success for those teams that either show well or not in preseason testing.
“This year, I don’t think any team really knows or understands the competitive order,” he said. “It’s been an extremely hard-to-read winter: varying fuel-loads and levels of tire degradation mean that it’s hard to accurately predict who’ll arrive in Australia with the best-sorted car. But that’s part of the game.”