The new McLaren-Mercedes MP4-24 has taken its first tentative steps after test driver Pedro de la Rosa completed a handful of laps around the Portimao circuit following its launch.

With the distinctive new machine, which complies with a series of radical new regulations being instigated for the 2009 season, charged with defending Lewis Hamilton's world title, de la Rosa completed 18 laps in total.

Setting a best time of 1min 28.719secs, de la Rosa was already underneath his best lap from the pre-Christmas tests in Portugal, where he ran a hybrid car with elements of the new slick-shod machine.

Handing over the car to Hamilton and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen later in the week, de le Rosa was certainly encouraged by the early impressions of the MP4-24.

"It's always an exciting moment when you get behind the wheel of a brand new car for the first time - and, given the extent of the rule changes we've addressed over the winter, today was more tense than usual.

"However, I'm happy to report that the car behaved just as we believed it would from our data and we carried out a number of runs, gaining in confidence as we ran through a number of systems checks.

"Obviously, we have yet to really push the MP4-24 to its limits and we will start running more laps on Monday but this was a constructive start and has given us some confidence.

"Given the limits on testing this year, it's now essential that we work productively in order to develop the car ahead of the first race of the season. We have a busy few weeks ahead of us but everyone within the team is really looking forward to the work ahead."

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