McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has admitted his team's car is simply not quick enough, after Red Bull Racing and Ferrari led the way in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
With the British team having headed into the season opener marked out as a strong contender for victory, Whitmarsh has confessed that the MP4-25's performance so far means they do not merit a win. Whitmarsh has said that the car, which Lewis Hamilton qualified fourth in, is lacking downforce and has struggled over the bumps in the new section of track.
"We have got to be realistic about it," he said. "Based on the evidence today we don't look quick enough to deserve a victory here, but that doesn't mean we will stop trying to get on – but we are realistic about it as well.
"I think we always said through testing that it is very, very difficult to see what people are doing. You've got five seconds of performance differential from full to empty tanks, and therefore you can't tell – we will start to know in qualifying. We sensed today that we didn't give the best car we could have done to our drivers, but we will see what we can do as a team. We maybe haven't got enough downforce here, certainly for that middle section, and we've got to look at the job we are doing.
"I don't think there are any surprises. We always knew and were realistic about where we might be here. You come in with the ambition and the aim to win. We certainly came with that, and we will retain that ambition. We will see how we get on."
Despite his pessimism about the performance, World Champion Jenson Button – who will start eighth – thinks there is still plenty to play for.
"I think in race trim the car is going to be working very differently and I don't think we will get the same result in the race like we have in qualifying," he said. "With heavy fuel loads we will see a different lineup, but it makes it exciting. For me it is a little bit of a surprise that they [Red Bull Racing] are that quick. I spoke to Mark Webber yesterday and he knew they were going to be quick in qualifying, but he was a little bit less sure in the race. Again he might not be telling me the whole truth!
"They were surprising. The Ferraris we knew would be quick as they have been quick in every lap they've done since the start of winter testing. So we knew they would be competitive and again I am a little bit surprised at Felipe's lap time but it shows we have a little bit of pace to find in the car.
"Even with the car we have now, we can still find more time. I was reasonably happy with the car in P3, qualifying not so much, we tried a few different things, things we can change for the race which is good, but I struggled with the balance."
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