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Sobering start confirms McLaren woes

17 March 2013

There was no point in McLaren trying to cover-up their disappointment in how their 2013 car had performed in the first weekend of the F1 season in Melbourne, Australia. The proof had been out there on track for all to see.

"Having won the Australian Grand Prix three times so far in my career - in 2009, 2010 and 2012 - you'd have to say that today's ninth place isn't really much to write home about," conceded Jenson Button.

"That was a very, very tough race," contributed Button's new team mate Sergio Perez, who finished in 11th place despite a spirited attempt late in the race to overhaul Romain Grosjean for a place in the points. "I nearly managed to score a point, but in the end I couldn't quite get up to 10th place at the end.

"To finish 11th is never really satisfying, but I think Jenson and I both drove pretty good races today," he added. "I got a good start, which is always a bonus, but, after that, even though the team did a great job with the strategy, we just didn't have enough pace to make significant further progress."

"A ninth-place finish and an 11th-place finish don't constitute much of a result by our sky-high standards," conceded team principal Martin Whitmarsh. "Ultimately the 2013 Australian Grand Prix weekend must therefore go down as a disappointing one for all at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.

"Our car simply hasn't been quick enough here, but undoubtedly our drivers and engineers got the maximum out of it this afternoon and you can't ask for more than that," he said. "Jenson and Checo both drove very hard and very well today, in difficult conditions, making no errors, so I want to say bravo to both of them."

While Button did manage to finish in the points at Albert Park, the pace of the #5 car dropped off alarmingly toward the end leaving him vulnerable to attack from behind while at the same time unable to make any forward progress.

"It was a tricky race, and our car isn't yet quick enough, so I think the team did a great job to achieve even as much as we did," he said. "I think we've got a tough few days ahead of us, but hopefully we can now do some number-crunching in an effort to understand our car a bit better and extract a bit more performance out of it."

And in the meantime, points are points - and the 2009 world champion is an experienced enough campaigner to know that even a single finish in the top ten can make all the difference to a world championship campaign down the line.

"I scored two world championship points today, which makes 1001 in my career I'm reliably informed, and to be honest I don't think I could have scored any more than that," he said. "I think we should be pretty satisfied with what we achieved here in Melbourne today."

Now the race is on to ensure that McLaren doesn't demonstrate the same sort of slump at the next race, which is only seven days away at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

"The task that faces us is simple, if not easy," said Whitmarsh. "We'll work incredibly hard to bring more pace to the MP4-28's performance envelope. Our engineers are the best in the business, so I'm confident that they'll do just that."


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