McLaren sporting director Sam Michael has confirmed that the mood within the Woking team is good as it prepares for pre-season testing, but admits that there are a lot of things to work on if it is to overhaul Red Bull and Ferrari at the front of the F1 field in 2013.
Speaking to Crash.net
, the Australian acknowledged the disappointment at not being able to put together a title challenge last season, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button rounding out the top five in the individual standings and McLaren having to give best to its two biggest rivals in the team stakes, and conceded that, despite taking six wins on the year, there were too many errors that could not be overcome by performance on track.
“You have to fix everything,” he explained, “There are three main things in motor racing - not in any order, there is performance, there is mechanical reliability and there is operational reliability. The first two are pretty obvious, but the last one is all about asking yourself 'Did you execute everything properly? Were the pit-stops right? Did we optimise the car on the track? How many mistakes did the driver make?'.
“It is all about removing any team errors from the equation. All three of those areas are areas we have worked on over the past six to eight months, as we knew by mid-season last year that we had made too many mistakes. They are areas we have worked on to deliver this year.”
Although McLaren appeared the team to beat towards the end of last year, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button taking out the last two races in the USA and Brazil, Michael admits that there can be no complacency heading into 2013.
“It's not just [about rectifying the mistakes], it's also a case of making the car faster as the gap is so close,” he offered, “Even though we won the last couple of races, the car that we used in Brazil wouldn't win if we took it to Melbourne – we are going to need a car that is much faster than that.
“The technical team within McLaren is very strong in depth and we know how to make a car quick. We know how to make is reliable and we know how to deliver – that is what we are focused on in 2013.
“I think it will be closer, but I still think the normal protagonists will be at the front battling. There is a reason why they are there, because you do the things that need to be done to make a fast car and a winning car, [and] I do think that it will be the same teams winning, although there will be others. I'm sure that Lotus will win some races and I think that Mercedes will win some races but, over the course of the season, I think it will be us versus Red Bull, with Ferrari in there as well.”
With Hamilton having defected to Mercedes, McLaren heads into the new season with the refreshed pairing of Button and Sergio Perez, and Michael claims that the Mexican's arrival has added to the sense of determination within the team's Woking HQ.
“We're really excited and I think everyone is really motivated for the 2013 season,” he confirmed, “We have 'Checo' in the car now, we have a world champion in Jenson Button and we are really looking forward to going racing again. Checo is just starting with the team, but all the signs are that he has his head turned on. He is a great character, he's fitted in quickly and is someone who we hope will grow inside the team into a race-winning driver.
“We've had enough [of a break] to really have a good look at all the things that we think we can make improvements on from last year and have addressed any issues there. We are going out there to fight for race wins in 2013 - that is what this year is all about.”