McLaren is confident it will be half a second per lap quicker in Malaysia than it was in Australia, according to Ron Dennis.
Kevin Magnussen finished second and Jenson Button third after Daniel Ricciardo's exclusion in Melbourne to leave McLaren leading the constructors' championship. However, Nico Rosberg won the Australian Grand Prix comfortably and Dennis admits the gap might prove tough to close between races.
“What we intend to be as fast as possible is a winning grand prix team, and if you're not winning then you're not where you want to be,” Dennis said. “So the question is how do we catch up and how fast can we do it? What steps have to be taken? But I'm very pleased with the changes that have been made over the last couple of months and the outcome I think is very positive, so let's see where we are in a month or two.
“These intercontinental races limit how fast you can develop the car, but nevertheless we're going to give it our best shot. We're confident that we will be half a second quicker at the next grand prix for a variety of reasons. That's not going to be enough to achieve our goal but that will keep the pressure on the teams that are chasing us.”
Racing director Eric Boullier added that Mercedes seems to have at least half a second advantage, but he believes McLaren could be in a position to win races on pace come the start of the European season.
“It's true that we understand that they have some pace, obviously,” Boullier said. “We believe it's maybe between 0.5s and 0.75s faster than the rest of the field. As for McLaren, we obviously focused a lot over the winter to build a solid and reliable car because we believed – and let's say so far the result in Australia confirmed our strategy – that reliability was key to taking some big points at the beginning of the season.
“It's true that we are now pushing very, very aggressively on the performance development. We clearly need to catch up the gap to Mercedes and to some other teams. Some other teams may not have performed well so far but clearly once the power unit is delivering full power they will be very fast too. I think the target for us is to catch up by Barcelona and build on the first four races in Europe.”