McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were the only two speakers at the launch of the MP4-28, although McLaren CEO Ron Dennis and F1 team principal Martin Whitmarsh were both in attendance.

However there was no sign of the team's technical director Paddy Lowe, who has been linked with a move to the Mercedes F1 team in recent weeks. The seat to the left of Whitmarsh in the audience was conspicuously empty.

However, Whitmarsh told reporters in the post-launch media availability sessions that Lowe was staying with the team in 2013 - while admitting that Lowe's longer-term future was in doubt.

"The one certainty is that Paddy will be a part of the team for the rest of this year," said Whitmarsh. "It's less certain, as has been speculated in the media, beyond that. It's something I'm sure we will have some certainty on in the near future."

Whitmarsh was also asked to explain Lowe's absence form the launch event at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking.

"I don't think he wants to create any embarrassment for the team or to any of his colleagues, so of his own election he decided it was better if he wasn't here," the team principal explained.

"Clearly there was a lot of media interest [in Lowe's future with the team]," Whitmarsh conceded. "I think it's good that Paddy concentrates on doing his job."

It's thought that under the terms of his contract with McLaren, Lowe will need to take six months out of F1 on so-called 'gardening leave' before he is able to take up an equivalent position at another team.
Lowe's name has been linked to the Mercedes team ever since former Williams F1 executive director Toto Wolff left that team to become director of motorsport at Mercedes in place of Norbert Haug,who left the company in December.

"Obviously in F1 there's always a lot of speculation about personnel or people joining or not joining," Wolff said last week. "I think Paddy's a recognised person in the paddock, he has been with McLaren for 15 or 20 years, and I've read it in the paper, that's all I can tell you."

If Lowe did depart McLaren and join Mercedes, it would put him back working alongside Lewis Hamilton who left the Woking team for a stint at Brackley after the end of the 2012 season.