Ron Dennis has insisted that whatever testing times may suggest, McLaren-Mercedes remains very much on-course for Formula 1 title glory in 2009 – claiming that it is only in the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix at the end of the month that the team will show what it is really capable of.
Stymied by what appear to be aerodynamic woes in the wake of the sport's dramatic new regulations for this year, the new MP4-24 has languished towards the bottom of the timesheets in testing at Jerez last week and Barcelona this, in the hands of defending world champion Lewis Hamilton, team-mate Heikki Kovalainen and test driver Pedro de la Rosa.
Indeed, a coming-together with the barriers for the former on Wednesday seemed to crystallize the problems the squad is facing in the build-up to Melbourne, and the Woking-based concern is one of only a few teams to have booked in for another testing stint at Jerez next week.
However, Dennis – who stepped down from his long-held role as team principal earlier this month to make way for former deputy Martin Whitmarsh, but remains significantly involved as chairman of the McLaren Group – is adamant that there is no reason to panic.
“Whatever performance level McLaren have today, we will be a competitive racing team,” the Englishman urged in an interview with BBC Sport
. “That means we will be fighting for the world championship.
“The objective is to go to Australia and be the most competitive car there, not to come out of every single test at the top of the timesheets. Testing is about a disciplined approach to making the car go faster, and you have to ignore the performance of the other teams.
“When we get to Australia, that will be the first measurement of everyone's performance. We expect our car to go faster with every grand prix – and we expect to maintain our pace to allow us to win the world championship.”
Dennis did admit that the multiple world championship-winning outfit has encountered some aerodynamic struggles over the winter months as it adapts to the new 2009 rules, but he is nonetheless confident that all is still going to plan.
“We had a strategy for this year to leave it to the last possible moment to produce our aerodynamic package for the Australian Grand Prix,” the 61-year-old revealed.
“That in itself gave us some production challenges, and we have really only started to run the car in the last day with the Australian aero package. It doesn't mean you are lost or that you don't know what you are doing.”