“McLaren launch the MP4-28”

© McLaren Group
© McLaren Group

McLaren became the second Formula One team to launch their 2013 car this morning, quickly following in the footsteps of Lotus.

Broadcast live on the team’s website from the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, the launch looked to be a typically dignified affair by the Anglo-Kiwi squad.

Of course the team will be hoping the MP4-28 – which looks remarkably similar to last year’s MP4-27 if I’m honest {note 1} – will mark a step up from their 2012 effort, which was all too often hit with reliability woes.

Indeed, issues with the MP4-27 cost McLaren several victories and potentially lost Lewis Hamilton a shot at a second world title.

Operational errors in the pitlane – still a persistent McLaren after all these years – cost both Hamilton and teammate Jenson Button valuable points, dropping the silver and red team behind Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.
For a team that took five victories when things were working well, some many mechanical and personnel failures must have stung them; to fall behind an unloved Ferrari peddled to death by Fernando Alonso, even moreso.

While the steady Button remains, Hamilton made a widely publicised exit at the end of last year – a point that will be drilled into us all through this season – and has been replaced by the quick, but erratic Sergio Perez.

Many years of experience has made Button something of a known quantity – this being his fourteenth year in Formula One – so much so, it is difficult to write anything new or of consequence about the 2009 World Champion without meeting with him and his engineers.
“Obviously, the biggest change for 2013 is my new team-mate, Checo. It’s always interesting and inspiring to begin working with a new face, and it already feels like a very positive working relationship. I know from personal experience that it can feel initially daunting when you walk into the McLaren Technology Centre for the very first time, but I also remember how quickly I was made to feel at home and how welcoming I found the whole McLaren family. I’m sure Checo already feels very much at ease here.
“We were extremely strong throughout the whole of the 2012 season, but, for one reason or another, we couldn’t quite pull it all together to challenge for the championships. That’s something we want to address for 2013. I’ve seen just how closely everybody has been working together on this car, and I think we’ve got the basis for a very strong season.
“We’ll be working extremely hard during the pre-season to ensure we go to the first race with bulletproof reliability. Operationally, too, I think we’ve learned and developed from last year, and that will help us run a much smoother and stronger campaign.”

However, on the opposite side of the garage, the likeable Perez still has room to improve and is certainly making fewer mistakes than now than in previous year’s.
It is quite clear the canny Mexican possesses the speed to reach the top step, but whether he has built the mental agility to retain concentration under times of pressure has often been called into question – his error while chasing Alonso in Malaysia last year was almost typical of “younger” Perez.
There are signs of learning and development for Perez – getting revenge on Alonso at Monza last year being a case in point – but this needs to be showcased every week, not just when the conditions suit.
“For me, this is a great day. In fact, every day this year has been great: I’ve been working hard with my new team to get everything ready for the start of the 2013 season – and it’s been an incredible journey to get to know this incredible organisation.
“Of course, I am fully aware of the steep slope ahead of me: it has already been an intense couple of weeks, getting to grips with a new team, meeting my engineers and mechanics, learning new ways of working and, of course, learning all about a brand new car – something I’ll need to do with just six days of on-track testing. It’s a big challenge.
“But it’s definitely going to be an exciting few weeks: although I’ve been racing in Formula 1 for the past two seasons, every racing car is different and it always takes a little time to adjust. Firstly, I’ll need to understand the different characteristics of the car; secondly, I’ll learn how to best work with my engineers to make the car suit my personal driving style. It’s going to be an interesting and exciting journey.
“But I’m more prepared than I’ve ever been for the start of a new season. I feel extremely fit, focused and refreshed – there’s still a lot to do, but my aims are to feel confident, comfortable and ready to race by the time I land in Australia in just a few weeks’ time.”

Following the launch, Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh released subtly confident comments to the press, all the emphasising the difficulty of the job at hand.
“The launch of a new Formula 1 car is always an exciting and slightly nerve-wracking occasion. For 2013, of course, we go racing to win. With Jenson and Checo, and this fantastic-looking new car, I believe we’re extremely well prepared for another competitive season.
“Jenson is driving better than ever – he’s the most experienced driver in Formula 1, but he makes every ounce of that experience count: he’s peerless in his ability to read a race and one of the very fastest drivers out there. He’s a consummate professional, too, and will revel in working hard to drive this team through the year.
“Checo joins us after a sensational 2012 season and he’s immediately proved that he’s intelligent, modest, hard-working and, make no mistake; very, very quick. Of course, there’ll be a learning curve to overcome as he gets used to our organisation, particularly during the hustle and bustle of the early-season race weekends, but he understands that we are placing no pressure on him.
“This is an exciting time for the whole team. In our 50th anniversary season, I want Vodafone McLaren Mercedes to underline why we are the finest grand prix team in the world.”

For analysis from people who actually know what they are talking about, check out Autosport, Racecar Engineering, Joe Saward and Kate Walker.

Key personnel:
Team Principal: Martin Whitmarsh
Director of Engineering: Tim Goss
Technical Director: Paddy Lowe (for now)
Director of Design and Development: Neil Oatley
Managing Director: Jonathan Neale
Sporting Director: Sam Michael
Operations Director: Simon Roberts
Commercial and Financial Director: John Cooper
Team Manager: Dave Redding

{note 1}
Difficult to tell to be honest. As with the Lotus reveal, the new McLaren is merely an evolution of last year’s runner as opposed to being anything truly new or different, thanks to the static nature of the rules. I feel that this point may get rather laboured in the next week or two.

© McLaren Group
© McLaren Group
© McLaren Group
© McLaren Group
© McLaren Group
© McLaren Group

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