The McLaren team claims that, despite opting to take a revamped version of its MP4-17-Mercedes to Melbourne for the opening round of the 2003 Formula One season, the car will be almost as new as one built specifically for the next campaign.

The Woking team has decided to follow Ferrari's 2002 route by taking a proven package to the opening round, but claims that, while it may not be able to challenge the champions with what is a revised version of last year's car, the MP4-17B will have enough new developments on board to ensure that there is an advance over its predecessor's 2002 performance.

"We are certainly not taking this year's car and engine to next year's Australia Grand Prix," managing director Martin Whitmarsh told the BBC, "The MP4-17 package has already undergone considerable change from the start of this year to the end, but we felt there is still a lot more we can exploit from it. The monocoque will be the only carry-over from the 2002 season, with substantial changes to all areas beneath the skin."

Whitmarsh went on to say that, although David Coulthard and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen will not get their hands on the new MP4-18 until the start of the European season in April, the tactic would ultimately bear fruit.

"We feel that this is the best long-term strategy for us to be able to reclaim the drivers' and constructors' championships," he explained, "We are not in Formula One just to win the first race of the season - although we would love to win it - but we are there to win the world championship."

Coulthard scored McLaren's only victory in the face of Ferrari domination last season, and Whitmarsh is a firm believer in the cyclical nature of success in Formula One, having seen the Italian giant come back after many years in the doldrums.

"Ferrari can be beaten, as we have shown many times before," he insisted, "But for us to be able to beat them consistently, we have to do more.

"There has been no single 'eureka' factor that has got Ferrari to the front of the grid - they've just got the job done in a variety of disciplines to make a strong package. They've shown that it's not just about trying harder, it's about doing a better job in all areas."



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