McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh says drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are heading into the start of the new F1 season in Australia next weekend more committed than ever before.
The Woking-based team heads into 2012 looking to beat Red Bull to the championship title having finished second to its rival for the past two seasons.
The new MP4-27 has performed solidly during pre-season testing, with Hamilton suggesting there is still more to come than was shown during the three sessions in Spain [See separate story HERE
], and Whitmarsh said he couldn't wait for the new season to get underway.
“I think Australia will be fascinating: the winter's testing has been so finely balanced that it's particularly difficult accurately to judge who'll be the quickest,” he said, “and that's fantastic for Formula 1 fans across the globe.
“At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we've had an extremely productive winter – I've never seen Jenson and Lewis looking so healthy, committed and prepared for a new season. There's a real hunger within the whole organisation – I've witnessed it in conversation with our heads of department, our engineers and our mechanics: we want to win more than ever and we've left no stone unturned in our quest for performance.
“Make no mistake, this will be a long, arduous and difficult campaign, and I'm naturally reluctant to stick my neck out and make any predictions, but my greatest hope is that we go to Australia and put on a world-beating show to demonstrate to the world that Formula 1 is back, and back with a bang!”
Hamilton meanwhile admitted that his focus was on securing a solid result to start his championship challenge, even if he didn't see victory as vital ahead of the longest F1 season to date.
“[I have] a realistic aim: to score some useful points and use the race to kickstart our challenge for the world championship,” he said. “That might sound like we're aiming low – we're not – but, at this time of year, it's good to remember that it's going to be a very long season. There's no point putting all your eggs in one basket – I'd love to win in Melbourne, sure, but there are 19 races afterwards, so it'll be important to get some points on the board. As long as I can leave Australia feeling confident that we have a car that's able to fight for the title, then I'll feel happy. It's as simple as that.
“I actually feel more relaxed and ready for the new season than I think I've ever done. Everything has gone smoothly with the car – which is more than we can say for last year! – and it just seems to be a responsive and reliable package. My final day in the car – with the aero package we plan to run next weekend – also felt good: the car was a useful step forward.
“Of course, we haven't tested it in competition yet, but there's plenty to feel optimistic about. It's a bit weird to have driven the car for a whole month and still not done a really fast lap – I guess we'll really find the limit next Saturday. Obviously, this is always the time of year when you're feeling positive, but we've got plenty to look forward to. I'm going to get off the plane in Australia with a big smile on my face.”