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McLaren banking on major improvement in Melbourne 21 Mar 2011

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, 9 March 2011 McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 March 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One Testing, Day 5, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 March 2011 (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren, Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer and Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
McLaren MP4-26 Launch, Kaisersaal, Berlin, Germany, 4 February 2011

McLaren are hoping that last-minute upgrades to their 2011 car will bring an improvement of up to one second per lap at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, relative to their pre-season testing form.

By their own admission, McLaren’s test programme with the MP4-26 has not gone to plan, but team principal Martin Whitmarsh is now confident that the late revisions, principally to the car’s floor and exhaust, will provide a significant performance boost.

"I'm not satisfied with where the car was on reliability or performance in the tests," said Whitmarsh in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-In. "We have made some fairly dramatic changes, and those changes we'll see in Australia. There's some risk in that, but I think it was the right thing to do and we're hoping that risk comes off and that the car is a lot more competitive.”

Like several of their rivals, McLaren’s latest machine had employed a quite complex floor and exhaust system, in a bid to claw back some of the downforce lost through the ban on double diffusers. However, after trailing key rivals Red Bull and Ferrari in testing, Whitmarsh said the team had opted to simplify their design in order to improve reliability.

"The exhaust systems have become quite extreme on quite a lot of the cars," he explained. "I think we in particular had a very extreme solution, but they were not delivering, in my opinion, sufficient benefit for their complexity.

"We had some very creative ideas, some of which could have worked spectacularly well, but to work spectacularly well they had to be sufficiently durable to be raceable. Frankly, some of our solutions weren't and that's why I think we had to go back. But I think in doing so we found some interesting performance.”

McLaren opted for a later launch of the MP4-26, instead choosing to use the first of the year’s pre-season tests to accumulate Pirelli tyre data using an interim version of last year’s MP4-25. However, after hitting a number of problems with the new car, Whitmarsh admitted that the unexpectedly late start to the new season could prove to be a blessing.

“It could be very crucial, but we’ll be able to answer that in the next few days,” he said. “We’ve been able to significantly change the car. If the car is reliable and quick then this will have been crucial.”

If McLaren can find the pace they expect from their updated car, they could have a chance of winning for the second year running at Albert Park following Jenson Button's 2010 success.

“The changes are aimed at making the car over a second quicker than it was in the tests,” confirmed Whitmarsh.

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