The 2004 McLaren-Mercedes challenger made its track debut at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia this morning, with David Coulthard taking the wheel for a shakedown run.

"It is positive that we have been the first team to run our 2004 challenger today," DC commented, "Initially, the MP4-19 feels good, it seems to have great potential and it is a further step in comparison with MP4-17D.

"Obviously, as this is the initial shakedown, we are focusing on familiarising ourselves with the MP4-19, and running various evaluations that are required when a new car takes to the track. The team and our partners have been working very hard to get the MP4-19 on track today, and this has provided us with the bonus of as much circuit development time as possible before Christmas."

Although taking its cues from the MP4-18 that did not run competitively but tested extensively in 2003, the design of the MP4-19 has had to incorporate a number of new changes in order to comply with new F1 regulations being implemented for the 2004 season.

The most notable difference saw the MP4-19 carrying a rear wing restricted to a maximum of two horizontal elements, and an engine cover increased in size. Other key visible design differences of the MP4-19 include the relocation of the radiator exit and a top exit exhaust.

"Although MP4-19 incorporates significant carry-over from MP4-18, and the findings gathered from its development programme in 2003, we have also had to take into consideration new technical regulations, which have led to some additional change alongside this progression," confirmed technical director Adrian Newey.

"A further focus of the design team on this front has been the modification to the chassis to integrate the new Mercedes-Benz FO 110Q engine into the package. The design process of the MP4-19 has seen a continued and fruitful collaboration with all our technology partners, which allows us to tap into a wide range of specialist technologies at the forefront of their individual fields that pay dividends to the team. For example, we have an extremely close relationship with Michelin, and recent development work undertaken by ExxonMobil into the Mobil 1 fuels and lubricants we use has seen excellent results.

"At the shakedown this week, we are primarily focusing on evaluation of various systems, components and the aerodynamics, before the start of the comprehensive test programme in early December. At this early stage, we are currently operating one MP4-19 chassis, and consequently will continue component evaluation with the MP4-17D alongside the new programme in this three-week period."

The single engine rule, which limits each driver to one engine per race weekend also marked a fundamental change to the team's programme. Consequently, the Mercedes-Benz FO 110Q V10 is a completely new design, to meet the extended use requirements for the 2004 world championship. The new engine is more compact than its predecessor, producing centre of gravity benefits. The Mercedes-Benz FO 110Q ran on the dyno for the first time on 31 July 2003 and now appears in the back of the MP4-19.

"Being able to test the car we have built for the 2004 season before the end of the year will certainly help us reach our targets," commented Mercedes-Benz motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug, "From 2004 onwards, Formula One will be a tougher challenge than ever. Only one engine will be permitted per driver, car and race weekend - a change in the regulations that sets the bar really high. No engine manufacturer will be satisfied aiming for less power than in 2003 but, at the same time, we all face the task of at least doubling the engine's life. Early and extensive tests are going to help both engine and chassis stand up to these new challenges."

The provisional test schedule for the MP4-19 sees the team follow this week's three-day outing in Valencia with trips to Barcelona (2-4 December), where Kimi Raikkonen will drive, and Jerez (9-11 December), when Coulthard will be back in the cockpit. Both drivers will be supported by third driver Alex Wurz and test driver Pedro de la Rosa.

"The team is pleased that the preliminary shakedown of the MP4-19 has taken place at this early stage in our preparation for the 2004 world championship," commented managing director Martin Whitmarsh, "This timeframe will allow us to fully maximise our pre-season test and development programme, and therefore help to meet our aim of arriving at the Australian Grand Prix with a technical package that is capable of sustaining a consistent challenge for both championships. This is, of course, of particular importance given the current points system."

 

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