McLaren-Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh has revealed that he is 'cautiously optimistic' about the team's new car, the MP4-25, that will be launched at Vodafone's UK headquarters in Newbury on Friday.

McLaren struggled at the start of last year and weren't really competitive until the second half of the season, when Lewis Hamilton managed to win two races for the Woking-based outfit, something that helped the team steal third spot from Ferrari in the constructors' championship.

Speaking in the countdown to the first test at Valencia on February 1, Whitmarsh added that he has been very pleased with the work done on the squad's latest challenger.

"Clearly, the absence of testing in January has eased the car-build schedule to a certain degree, but we're still working as hard as ever at the McLaren Technology Centre. During the development of MP4-25, we set ourselves some very high targets - and I'm enormously pleased with the way our designers and engineers have tackled the approach to the new car," Whitmarsh stated. "The new regulations have obviously had an effect on the car's appearance, with the much higher-capacity fuel tank looking more striking than before.

"But we're pleased with a number of solutions we've been able to bring to the car, and I think we're cautiously optimistic that, after the experience of last year and, in particular, the momentum we gathered in the second half of the season, we'll have a competitive car for both Jenson and Lewis.

"Is it a championship contender? It's still far too early to say. Will it win races? We certainly hope so. Am I proud of the effort we've currently invested in the car? Most definitely."

Hamilton will be joined by Jenson Button this season and while some believe having two world champions could cause friction - a bit like what happened in 2007 when Fernando Alonso was paired with then rookie Hamilton - Whitmarsh remains convinced that the two Brits will work together well.

Indeed he is confident that the partnership will be a successful one and that it won't hinder the teams' ambitions.

"I'm relatively relaxed about the driver partnership. Knowing Lewis as I do, and having got to know more of Jenson during the limited time I've spent with him during his busy visits to MTC, I feel relatively confident that our driver line-up this year will be a very stable and mutually productive one," Whitmarsh continued.

"But neither became world champion simply by driving at the limit on the racetrack; they've each been responsible for moulding and developing an organisation around them, and in exploiting the skills of their respective engineers to the best of their abilities. And it's that sort of approach that we'll be looking to encourage from both drivers in order to give us a performance advantage.

"We've also got an extremely experienced and capable race team, and we feel that will play absolutely to our drivers' strengths.

"Equally, they know that F1 in 2010 will be more competitive than ever before. Collaboration, understanding and the shared development of the car will be at the forefront of everybody's mind. And given the testing limitations and the minimal track time at the weekend, it's the only way to get ahead. Both Jenson and Lewis fully understand that. That's why I'm so thrilled with our driver partnership - I really think it will play to the strengths of modern F1. Of course, we wouldn't be going racing if we couldn't let our drivers 'off the leash', but our absolute priority is to develop a frontrunning car."


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