Martin Whitmarsh has defended Sergio Perez after the Mexican endured a tough start to his McLaren career.

The 23-year-old replaces Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes line-up this season but has picked up just two points from the first two races of the year - finishing ninth in Malaysia having failed to break into the top ten in the season-opener in Australia.

That has led to criticism from some quarters about whether Perez was the right man for the team but Whitmarsh said the youngster was doing a good job with the tools at his disposal - with McLaren having made no secret of a need to improve the MP4-28.

"He's done a solid job," he was quoted by Sporting Life. "It's easy to get rattled in coming to a team like McLaren and not having a quick enough car. But he's an intelligent guy, who might be incredibly young but to my mind he has not put a foot wrong.

"He is a team player. I am very, very, very blessed at the moment with the drivers we have, with their attitude, their approach, powering through as team members. The drivers are doing an excellent job, we're making some progress, but we shouldn't be where we are so we have to work hard to get out of it, and that's what we plan on doing."

Despite Whitmarh's comments however, former McLaren driver John Watson said he felt the decision to replace Hamilton with Perez was part of the reason why the Woking-based team had endured such a tough start to 2013.

"Red Bull have two drivers of a high level of experience, as do Ferrari and Mercedes," he told BBC Sport. "McLaren look like they've got one and a half drivers.

"Signing Perez to replace Hamilton did raise a few eyebrows in the paddock. While I think most would say he's got a single fast lap in him, his race performances are less of a known quantity. He had some great races last year but I'm not yet clear as to what level of information or value he brings the team.

"Give Perez a really good car and he might shine but to me the ultimate driver is one who can drag performance out of an underperforming car. The jury is still out as to whether Perez has the potential to do that.

"The big teams are benefitting from having two drivers with lots of experience and race victories under their belt and I think McLaren, at least in the short term, are losing out."