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Whitmarsh: What you see is what you get

2 February 2012

Martin Whitmarsh has insisted that there will be no attempt to pull the wool over anyone's eyes when the latest McLaren hits the track for pre-season testing, pointing out that there are more important things to focus on.

Aware that the Woking team lost a major part of last year's pre-season chasing the 'octopus' exhaust concept that was ultimately abandoned on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix, Whitmarsh said that, while he was aware that every team knew the potential of 'grandstanding' and 'sandbagging' to achieve various goals, McLaren would be paying more attention to making sure that its MP4-27 was ready to take on the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari.

"All the teams will develop their cars, I'm sure, so the car that's unveiled as they pull the cloth back will not be the car that's being used in Q1 in Australia, and there will be a greater evolution in some teams than others I would imagine," he pointed out, "Is there grandstanding and sandbagging? Yes. Do all of the teams do it? To varying degrees. We don't go out of our way to grandstand, as we've got a long-term serious programme.

"Inevitably, and we see it every year, a team that may be on the point of a new sponsorship deal appears to be very quick in some tests and then suddenly doesn't look quite so quick when it gets to the first race. It is so easy [to do] as the weight sensitivity of F1 cars is such that you can make a car artificially a second or two quicker if you need to.

"We don't do any of that, [although] we could be accused of sandbagging in that we try to hold back a little bit. But, again, we don't try and be too clever on ourselves. I think really testing for us is data gathering, it's allowing our engineers to start to work with the drivers, understand the car, feed back information here so that we can do
a better job of developing the car in the future, and allow the driver and the race engineers to be in a position that they can optimise it at the right time, which isn't during the winter tests, it's when we get to Q1 in Australia."

Like both his drivers, Whitmarsh was complimentary when it came to reviewing the look of the new MP4-27 as it was unveiled in Woking on Wednesday (1 February).

"It looks beautiful at the moment, but cars really do look beautiful if they win races," he commented, "And, you know, the beauty is more than skin deep. I think there's
tremendous engineering underneath. A lot of thought has gone into this car and, really, refinement. I'm sure it will look different when it gets to Australia. That's the nature
of F1 these days, we're constantly evolving the product, but I think it's nice, when you're going to have to stand around a car for quite a long period of your life during a year, if it looks good at the outset that helps us.

"I'm sure it's no surprise to everyone here that our goal is to win two world championships this year. That's what we exist to do. That's what we try to do every year, [even if] we don't always succeed. It's a very challenging, competitive series but, you know, we are there or thereabouts. We don't like losing. Coming second the last two years has had it's frustrations. You know, we're proud of some great moments and some great victories in those years but, ultimately, we want to win - and we want to win world
championships.

"You know, we expect to win, we have that burning passion to do so. And we know that that's a combination of brilliant team work, great people, inspiration, hard work, dedication, discipline, attention to detail, all those things which are very much part of McLaren DNA. That's what you need to win in F1 today. There's some very strong competitors out there, but I think we're feeling at the moment that we're in a good place. We know there's a long season ahead of us, we're looking forward to getting testing, developing the car and getting to that first race and campaigning for championships."

Asked whether McLaren can prevent Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel claiming a hat-trick of titles, Whitmarsh insisted that the team would be doing its best.

"It will be close," he noted, "It's a massively competitive championship these days. There's no doubt about that. No one, in my view, is going to run away with this victory,
not us, not anyone else.

"We won't really know until Australia qualifying, you know, through the practice and testing sessions that we have in front of us -- we'll be embarking on a whole range of programmes, but turning to the real point we had, by anyone's standards, an abysmal winter testing session last year, where we didn't have reliability or pace, and I think it was really a tribute to fantastic teamwork and everyone within the organisation responding to that, that we arrived in Australia in reasonable competitive position. But it was a relatively stressful process, so I'd be much happier to be not fighting those sorts of issues. But I think we've put a lot of work into this car and we don't think we're going to have a repeat of last winter."

Asked whether not introducing something as radical as the 'octopus' exhaust meant that McLaren may have produced a conservative car for 2012, Whitmarsh suggested otherwise.

"I don't believe we've been inherently conservative," he claimed, "Inevitably, there are creative brains out there that seek to find the 'eureka moment' that is going to find
a second's worth of performance. Sadly, in F1, to some extent those eureka moments of seconds of performance increment are very limited and, nowadays, F1 is about refining every single detail part, so a one or two per cent performance differentiation from the front to the back of the grid is made up of tiny, tiny fractions of performance increments from just about every component within the car, every system.

"I think this year I think we've been, not cautious, but I think the way the development has happened, we're finding good performance. We've set ourselves some tough targets that we think, if achieved, will allow us to win the world championship. We haven't reached those targets yet but, fortunately, we're not at the first race. If we set the right targets, we'll only start to establish [a pecking order] when we get to Australia. With rule changes, we've been flying blind now for a few months, and that's
the exciting thing. You have to now set your own targets - we've got our engineers who have to have their own moments of inspiration, and they've got to develop and work hard to make this car competitive. So, I think we set targets which we believed were going to be tough, but I think we will get there. We'll see as the season progresses."


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