Martin Whitmarsh has revealed his awe for the manner in which F1 designers and engineers relentlessly come up with exciting new innovations, praising the sport's inherent creativity and ingenuity and confessing that he is 'brimming with enthusiasm and passion about the season ahead' - even if McLaren-Mercedes has yet to show its full hand.

McLaren's new challenger, the MP4-26, was launched in Berlin at the end of last week, and has taken to the track today for the first time at Jerez in southern Spain, with 2008 F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton at the wheel. As the ultra-successful Woking-based outfit bids to reverse last year's title defeat to Red Bull Racing, its team principal admits that there is nowhere else he would rather be.

"2010 was an absolutely fantastic F1 season, great for the fans and sending out a really good message for our sport - and we were proud to be a part of it," Whitmarsh underlined. "Ultimately, we had some good moments, even if we ended up disappointed after the last race - but to be there in that last race fighting for the championship was great.

"You come out of such a season with a whole range of emotions, but clearly I was very proud to be the team principal of McLaren-Mercedes. I was proud of our drivers (Hamilton and Jenson Button) - they're two great world champions, and great human beings, too, given the way they performed not only in the car but also out of the car with the engineers and how they interacted in the team and as ambassadors.

"I've been very fortunate to be in this team for 22 years. The nice thing is working in a team with people I enjoy working with and who I've got great respect for. We've got some very bright, dedicated people in the team, and most of them have grown and developed within the team. For me, that's very, very satisfying."

The Englishman clearly hopes that such intelligence and commitment to the cause will lead to McLaren's new baby proving to be a genuine force to be reckoned with this year - and with the aerodynamic regulations increasingly restrictive from one season to the next, he admits that he is frequently taken aback by how areas of the car that have traditionally not seen much development, all-of-a-sudden become key differentiators. And there is, he promises, plenty more still to come.

"Be warned - you haven't seen it all!" Whitmarsh quipped. "I think there are some really interesting bits on the car that you can see, and hopefully some bits we have hidden from you, too. There are some fantastic innovations, which never cease to amaze me. The regulations are now much more constraining around the diffuser area, and that drives creative ideas - we're in a business where if you're not innovating, you will not be competitive.

"Creative people will always find a way to innovate, and that's fantastic. F1 is about continuously developing and we will continue to develop the car race-by-race - it's a really interesting challenge. I think it's a beautifully-packaged car and I'm brimming with enthusiasm and passion about the season ahead - but we've not shown our full hand yet."

The 52-year-old went on, finally, to mull over the new moveable rear wing, insisting that F1 has a duty to listen to the voice of its fans and seeking to assuage the cynics by asserting that it is always easier to address an issue of too much overtaking rather than too little.

"Some people are concerned it will be too easy to overtake, but I think what's important and what we have to remember is that FOTA (the Formula One Teams' Association, of which he is chairman) commissioned a comprehensive survey amongst the fans - and one of the overriding issues raised was the feeling that there aren't enough overtaking opportunities in F1," Whitmarsh stressed.

"Some of us deeply involved in and passionate about the sport might not believe or accept that, but we can't get that feedback and then say we're going to do nothing about it - we have a responsibility placed upon us to do something.

"Last year, after the first race we all went away very worried about where we were. As it turned out, it was a fantastic world championship and people are now saying 'why do you need this device?' But we should never be complacent, and we need to work together with the FIA to make sure that the sport attracts, maintains and increases its global coverage."



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