McLaren have taken risks to improve - Martin Whitmarsh
Button and Hamilton look ahead to new season
By Richard Rae
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh hopes McLaren will be one second faster in Sunday's first race of 2011 than in the final pre-season test in Barcelona.
McLaren's car had been off the pace of front-runners Red Bull and Ferrari but dramatic alterations have been made.
"The changes are intended to deliver more than a second in performance," Whitmarsh said ahead of the season's opener in Australia.
"We hope the risks we have taken come off and we are competitive."
The new parts include a completely new floor and exhaust system, both of which are key in creating critical aerodynamic downforce.
Whitmarsh admitted the team had been forced to return to a simpler exhaust design.
"The exhaust systems have become quite a lot more extreme on quite a lot of the cars. I think we, in particular, had very extreme solutions, but I think they were not delivering, in my opinion, sufficient benefits for their complexity," he continued.
However, Whitmarsh maintained the new MP4-26 was not fundamentally slow.
Hamilton and McLaren have struggled in pre-season testing
"I think the car isn't a bad car, I think we need to unlock the exhaust-blowing potential," he explained.
F1 teams are currently using "blown" exhausts, which channel exhaust gases to improve downforce.
"We had some very creative ideas, some of which could have worked spectacularly well, but in order to work spectacularly well they had to be sufficiently durable to be raceable - and frankly some of our solutions weren't," Whitmarsh said.
"So we had to go a little back, but in doing so we found some interesting performance. I think it will still be a challenging weekend, but that we will put on more than a second from the final test."
Whitmarsh admitted the extra two weeks of preparation afforded the team by the postponement of the Bahrain Grand Prix had been hugely useful.
"I wasn't satisfied with our reliability or pace in the tests this year. We've taken a risk to quite significantly change the car going into Australia, and if it [the car] is reliable and quick, then the extra two weeks will have been very crucial indeed," he said.
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