The West McLaren-Mercedes that David Coulthard drove to victory in the Australian Grand Prix may have been a 2002 model, but the car was considerably different to the one the Scot drove to third place in the USGP or that which Kimi Raikkonen took to a similar position in Japan.

After the beating the rest of the field took at the hands of Ferrari in 2002, McLaren decided to follow the Scuderia's lead by delaying the introduction of its new car - the MP4-18 - until at least the start of the European portion of the 2003 campaign. The older car had proven its worth by competing with, and beating, Williams' FW24, and with Ferrari also delaying the introduction of the F2003, McLaren bosses decided that it was worth persevering with the MP4-17 in revised form to give the new model every chance of hitting the tracks in a winning position.

That decision paid off on Sunday, when Coulthard raced to victory in Melbourne at the wheel of a substantially revised, but no less reliable, MP4-17D.

"The entire team has worked incredibly hard with the aim of increasing our overall competitiveness," McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh explained, "Although there are no quick fixes, we do not intend to continue to under-perform. The MP4-17D has new transmission, a new rear suspension package, a new aerodynamics package, along with the new front suspension we incorporated at the end of 2002."

He went on to confirm that the new car has yet to be assigned a definitive introduction date, something that Coulthard alluded to during his victory press conference in Australia.

"I think, qualifying positions aside, we certainly believe ourselves to be as competitive as the Williams, if not the Ferrari at this time," the Scot admitted after stepping down from the top step of the podium, "But we're obviously placing some hope in the new car - when it comes out for probably about the fifth or sixth race of the season - that that will be able to bridge the gap to Ferrari."

Whitmarsh suggested only that there would be no change to the gameplan during the opening series of 'flyaway' races, allowing modification and repair to the MP4-18 to take place within a reasonable distance of the team's Woking base. The first 2003 race in Europe is the San Marino Grand Prix on 20 April.