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Whitmarsh plays down scare stories

NEWS STORY
10/03/2011

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has played down media speculation that the team's 2011 contender is uncompetitive and is unlikely to be challenging for wins far less the championship.

Earlier this week, driver turned TV pundit turned commentator, Martin Brundle described the MP4-26 as a mess, telling the BBC in a season preview: "It didn't slow down. It didn't turn in. It couldn't get the power down. Lewis looked absolutely at sea in the thing. Clearly they have a fundamental issue."

Not so, says Whitmarsh in an interview with the official Formula One website. "It's simply too early to say anything definitive about the MP4-26 or indeed about any other 2011 car," said the Englishman. "Time without number, motorsport pundits have come unstuck when they've attempted to extrapolate testing times to predict race results, and I'm not about to join their number now. Suffice to say that we've had a few reliability issues during testing so far, but we're confident that things are going in the right direction now.

Having contested the opening test with its 2010 car, McLaren is down on its main rivals in terms of mileage. Furthermore, the decision to change its Barcelona schedule, missing out on today's running and effectively carrying out two two-day tests, has added to the media speculation.

"The reality is that every decision you make regarding the building and operation of a Formula One car amounts to a calculated and strategic balancing of risk," said Whitmarsh. "In the case of the MP4-26, one of the most significant performance factors facing every team for 2011 was the introduction of the new Pirelli tyres - a variable that, by running at Valencia using last year's car, we felt we could more richly evaluate in isolation, on a platform that we already knew and understood.

"In actual fact, that first test proved extremely beneficial in providing us with rich, raw tyre data that we've been analyzing ever since. So, while I admit that the introduction of the MP4-26 has been affected by a few reliability issues, we still stand by our decision to defer its introduction by one test. By contrast, by choosing to sit out the Thursday of the final Barcelona test, we've effectively extended our working window by an extra day: we're running Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday. Late delivery of new components is always critical in the run-up to the first race, and we felt that Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday was the optimal way to ensure we could stretch that window as much as we could. Once again, it's an approach that we've thought about carefully, and feel confident will prove beneficial."

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