McLaren-Mercedes has prepared for the forthcoming F1 2010 World Championship campaign better than it has ever done before and will not be making the same mistakes as were made in 2009, Martin Whitmarsh has assured – as he underlined that the team's sole objective this year is to win
McLaren entered 2009 as one of the leading favourites for success, but its unloved MP4-24 rapidly proved to be, well, anything but rapid. Aerodynamic inefficiency was the chief bugbear, and barring a brief albeit misleading upturn in form in Bahrain when Lewis Hamilton challenged for a podium, the opening half of the season was a recurring nightmare for the multiple world champions as the legacy of having pushed until the very final moment in 2008 in order to secure the drivers' crown came back to haunt the Woking-based outfit.
However, by dint of unstinting hard work, come the Hungarian Grand Prix in late July, Hamilton had regained the top step of the rostrum once again, following a spectacular turnaround with a car that only three months earlier had possessed handling qualities more akin to those of a truck and languished the best part of three seconds shy of the front-running benchmark. Over the remaining races, the 2008 F1 World Champion was invariably amongst the pace-setters – and much of the time, indeed, he was the
pace-setter. Now, team principal Whitmarsh is well aware, the key is to keep that momentum going into 2010.
“I think to be honest, as a top team you go into every season hoping to win every race and the championship,” the Englishman mused, speaking at the launch of the new MP4-25 at the Newbury headquarters of McLaren's title sponsor Vodafone. “Last year we were coming off the back of two incredibly tough years fighting for the world championship and developing the car right to the end of the season.
“I'm incredibly proud of the efforts of everyone in the team to recover from the fairly horrendous start we had to the year to develop a car that by the end of the year was capable of winning. We proved last year that we are fighters by developing the car during the course of the season to a much greater extent than any other team, albeit having given ourselves a much lower platform to start from.
“Alexander Graham Bell – the inventor of the telephone – said preparation is the key to success, and consistent with that belief we have prepared for this season more comprehensively than ever before. The car is the product of many man hours spent in the pursuit of performance at McLaren. I'm very proud to represent this team, but I'm only one small part of a talented, dedicated and fantastic group of people, who have all been working tirelessly at Woking to produce a competitive car – and I want to pay tribute to them and thank them for that.
“Even with a great car and team, though, you can only succeed if you also have the best drivers, and between them our two drivers have won the past two Formula 1 World Championships. We are thrilled to have Jenson [Button] and Lewis represent this team on the track. Both drivers are clearly winners and want to win again this year. They have astute technical minds and have contributed to our programme as good, honest and strong team players.
“Obviously we've got four world champions in the sport this year, and that's exciting – especially as two of them are in our team! Everybody wants to see McLaren fighting Ferrari and the Mercedes works team, and I'm sure Red Bull will be competitive again too. We're just concentrating on what an exciting season and fantastic contest it looks like being this year. We need to make sure we put on a good show on the track, try to engage the fans more and work hard on the spectacle of F1.
“You can never be absolutely confident, but we know how hard we have worked and prepared for this year and we are still working hard and will keep on pushing. The season is not won or lost during testing or even over the first few races, and whatever happens we will be fighting hard throughout the year. We are expecting an exciting season ahead, and our goal is clear – we aim to win.”