Jenson Button insists that he will be chasing another victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but won't be surprised if McLaren is made to wait for its first success of 2013.
The Briton has won twice in Melbourne since joining McLaren – and three times in all following his flying start to 2009 with Brawn – but accepts that the team's decision to introduce what is largely a new design of car this season may initially set it on the back foot.
The new MP4-28 has shown flashes of potential in pre-season testing, posting fastest lap times at each of the three sessions in Jerez and Barcelona, but Button has made no secret of his concerns about unpredictability, suggesting that the team was still to get a handle on its set-up. As a result, he remains unable to predict McLaren's place in the pecking order as the F1 circus heads to Albert Park for next weekend's opening round.
"We wanted to build a car that would be strong throughout the year and that's why we've made so many changes to the way the car looks, the suspension geometry and how that affects the aerodynamics of the car among other things," he told Reuters
"It's a very long season and we want to be able to develop all the way through the year. And, whereas some teams might come with a car that they used in Brazil with a few tweaks to it, which means they will be strong at the first race, they won't be able to develop like us through the year.
"So that is the idea that we have, but still we want to be quick at the first race, we want to win from the word go. It's possibly going to be a tough race for everyone because it seems so close at the moment. But we still go to Melbourne aiming for a victory."
By contrast, reigning world champions Red Bull has been accused of building a soft evolution of its title-winning RB8, suggesting that perhaps it has pushed the boundaries of development about as far as they can go.
Despite his strong start to 2012 – he also finished on the podium in China – Button's championship challenge fell away mid-season amid a series of poor performances and pit-stop problems. That is something that he says cannot be allowed to happen this time around.
"This is an important year for us - it has been a long time [since we won a title],” he continued, "Even if you win the first race, it doesn't mean you're going to win the world championship, as I proved last year. You can't slip up through the year - everything has to go to plan, be smooth, because I don't think people are going to be making big mistakes. It's about staying calm, focusing on the fine details, especially because there aren't any regulation changes.
"We can't have a year like last year in terms of reliability issues, mistakes, having an inconsistent season. It has to be a very clean season. We can't slip up."