McLaren is bullish that its 2010 car has met the ambitious performance targets the team has set down for this season, ahead of its public launch later this week.
Following the troubles the team endured ahead of the start of last season, McLaren reckons that the mistakes it made before will not be repeated. The new car will be unveiled at title sponsor Vodafone's UK headquarters on Friday.
"During the development of MP4-25, we set ourselves some very high targets – and I'm enormously pleased with the way our designers and engineers have tackled the approach to the new car," said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh. "The new regulations have obviously had an effect on the car's appearance, with the much higher-capacity fuel tank looking more striking than before.
"But we're pleased with a number of solutions we've been able to bring to the car, and I think we're cautiously optimistic that, after the experience of last year and, in particular, the momentum we gathered in the second half of the season, we'll have a competitive car for both Jenson and Lewis.
"Is it a championship contender? It's still far too early to say. Will it win races? We certainly hope so. Am I proud of the effort we've currently invested in the car? Most definitely."
McLaren has not yet decided who will get the first try out of the 2010 car, with former test driver Pedro de la Rosa having been penciled in prior to his switch to BMW Sauber.
"Clearly, the absence of testing in January has eased the car-build schedule to a certain degree, but we're still working as hard as ever at the McLaren Technology Centre," continued Whitmarsh. "We'll be launching the car at Vodafone's UK headquarters in Newbury on Jan. 29, and we'll be running one MP4-25 at the first test at Valencia on Feb. 1.
"Obviously, Pedro [de la Rosa]'s decision to sign with Sauber will have a slight impact on our test program, but we'll overcome it. We're very happy that Pedro has got a race drive for 2010 – he's been a great asset to our team and, above all, a very dear friend to all of us.
"As has become customary with most teams, the first tests will be about establishing a baseline of performance, allowing the engineers and mechanics to learn and understand the new car and the impact of the new regulations. And, as in previous years, we'll introduce a series of upgrades at one of the later tests, and that will be the car we take to the opening race."
McLaren is also confident that the partnership of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will be of benefit to the team, rather than being the potential cause of any internal problems.
"I'm relatively relaxed about the driver partnership," added Whitmarsh. "Knowing Lewis as I do, and having gotten to know more of Jenson during the limited time I've spent with him during his busy visits to MTC, I feel relatively confident that our driver lineup this year will be a very stable and mutually productive one.
"But neither became World Champion simply by driving at the limit on the racetrack; they've each been responsible for molding and developing an organization around them, and in exploiting the skills of their respective engineers to the best of their abilities. And it's that sort of approach that we'll be looking to encourage from both drivers in order to give us a performance advantage. We've also got an extremely experienced and capable race team, and we feel that will play absolutely to our drivers' strengths.
"Equally, they know that Formula 1 in 2010 will be more competitive than ever before. Collaboration, understanding and the shared development of the car will be at the forefront of everybody's mind. And given the testing limitations and the minimal track time at the weekend, it's the only way to get ahead. Both Jenson and Lewis fully understand that.
"That's why I'm so thrilled with our driver partnership – I really think it will play to the strengths of modern Formula 1. Of course, we wouldn't be going racing if we couldn't let our drivers 'off the leash,' but our absolute priority is to develop a front-running car."