25 February 2012
Whitmarsh: Too close to call so far
Martin Whitmarsh says pre-season testing suggests that things are too close to call at the head of the F1 pack
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has said he feels the top teams on the F1 grid are almost too close to call after the conclusion of the second pre-season test of the year at Catalunya.
Four different teams topped the times in Barcelona over the course of the week, although the main focus for the front-runners was very much on set-up and race simulation work – with each of the four afternoons being mainly used for longer runs rather than to chase a quick time.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, Whitmarsh said he was pleased with the reliability being shown by the MP4-27 thus far, especially given the troubles suffered last year with the 2011 car, although he admitted it was too close to call between the top teams.
"We've been banging out 100-120 laps a day and we haven't had anything fall off the car this week - that's a good sign,” he said. “It's been very reliable. We've just concentrated on our engineering programme - we've spent the mornings gathering data, doing tests, not trying to go super quick, and the afternoon doing long runs. Those have gone well.
"If you contrast that from this time last year when we had - probably in my 23 years in the team - the worst winter testing we've ever had, we've got to happy with that. Ultimately you're happy if your car is quickest and that remains to be seen. It looks tight, sadly we're not the dominant team, that's the bad news for me.
"But the good news is I don't think anyone else looks dominant either. Red Bull look strong, Ferrari and Mercedes look pretty reasonable, so that's encouraging."
Whitmarsh also added that he didn't feel the times set by the bigger teams were representative because of the programmes being run up and down the paddock.
"I suspect the big boys at this end (of the pit lane) could probably go two or three seconds a lap quicker if they really tried, but that's not the name of the game,” he said. "We're not trying to win the winter world championship, we are trying to gather data and be prepared so that we can be strong for the season."
The final day of the Catalunya test saw Jenson Button complete another 115 laps with the car, setting the fourth best time in the process to bring a solid test to a positive conclusion.
“Today was spent completing some of the fundamental tests that we don't normally get the opportunity to do at race weekends,” McLaren's team manager David Redding said. “We also used the time to continue tyre testing and complete a number of reliability prove-outs.
“It was a good day: we did 115 laps and felt the car went well. This week we've completed more than 2100km of running, which is impressive. It's been a pleasing end to a very constructive week.”
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