McLaren: Much work to be done


McLaren may have surpassed expectations in Australia, but MD Jonathan Neale reveals the team aren’t resting on their laurels…

McLaren may have surpassed pre-season expectations by picking up a podium finish in Australia, but managing director Jonathan Neale reveals the team aren’t resting on their laurels.

The Woking-based outfit struggled for pace throughout the pre-season testing program, but having reinvented their exhaust in time for the delayed season-opener in Australia, Lewis Hamilton came home in second while Jenson Button finished sixth.

“We were pleased with the performance of our car even though we didn’t win the race,” Neale explained in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ‘phone-in’ session.

“That was a confidence boost for us. We are not for one minute thinking that we have seen the best of Ferrari or Mercedes at this stage. We watched each other carefully through winter testing and I am absolutely sure that both of those teams have more to bring.

“In terms of the nature of the circuit, once you get to venue like Malaysia with much hotter track temperatures and certainly circuits like Barcelona which are pretty challenging, they will test the cars more fully.”

Asked whether he was for the most part happy with the MP4-26 despite being some way behind Red Bull, Neale was firm in his assertion that they had a lot to do before anyone at the team would be content.

“Not until we are on the front row of the grid. I think you are right in your first assessment in that we don’t think we necessarily had the quickest car out there, and we are working very hard over the next few races to try and make sure that Lewis (Hamilton) and Jenson (Button) can qualify on the front row,” he said.

“I think there is still a reasonable amount of work to do. There are some areas of the car that we are satisfied with, but clearly at this stage it is all about how we exploit the tyres and we get the downforce on the car.”

There are a number of interesting variables to consider heading to the Malaysian GP at Sepang this weekend, and with the heat, tyres and strong possibility of rain all coming into play, Neale reveals that it is the wet weather that concerns him the most.

“Last year Ferrari and ourselves found us in P22-23, which is always very uncomfortable for a Saturday evening. We are going to be running when there is a high possibility of rain which will make it interesting for the spectators and very stressful for us teams,” said the Briton.

“It will be interesting to see how the Pirelli tyres work in the rain. We had some experience with torrential rain in Barcelona through the winter testing, but we haven’t really done much running on the inters yet. But that is the same for everybody. At least the one thing we can see is that regardless of what the conditions are, we’ve all got to go through them,” he added.