McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has defended the teams' decision not to launch its new car until after the first test of the year.

McLaren will start pre-season testing at Valencia from February 1-3 with an interim car and while key rivals Red Bull Racing and Ferrari have taken a different approach, Whitmarsh believes this is the 'optimal' strategy to allow both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button to be as competitive as possible during F1 2011.

"The MP4-26 is on schedule and will be launched on February 4, after which it will go through the normal testing processes," Whitmarsh said in an interview with the official F1 site. "We feel that timetable is optimal with regard to providing Jenson and Lewis with the best possible package for the first race in Bahrain on March 13.

"And that will be just the beginning of a progressive and rigorous development programme that will continue right up until the Brazilian Grand Prix on November 27."

Asked if the team has been 'bold' in its design for the coming season, Whitmarsh was giving little away.

"There are new regulations for 2011 - and the MP4-26 will not only adhere to them but it will also sport a few fresh design features in response to the opportunities presented by those new regulations," he explained.

"So, yes, there will be some new elements, but as you can imagine I'm not prepared to add more detail at the moment!"

As for the target this year, Whitmarsh added that the Woking-based squad has only one aim: "Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' mission is a unilateral one: to win," he continued.

"We won five Grand's Prix last year, including three one-two finishes, and we came second in the constructors' championship, significantly ahead of our traditional rivals, Ferrari.

"But although many teams would be more than satisfied with that performance, we weren't and aren't. As I say, our mission is to win, and winning five Grand's Prix and coming second in the constructors' championship doesn't constitute enough of a win for us. It goes without saying that this year we aim to do better," he concluded.

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