McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes that no single team appears set to dominate heading into the 2012 Formula 1 season opener in Australia.
In contrast to Red Bull's supremacy during the 2011 championship, preseason testing at Jerez and Barcelona failed to produce a clear favorite as several drivers and teams took spells at the top of the times. Whitmarsh said long-run data and driver feedback gave his team the sense it will be competitive at Melbourne, but insisted that neither McLaren nor any of its rivals look set to dominate 2012's opening round.
"The bad news is we don't look dominant; The good news is that no one else [does] either," Whitmarsh said. "Our sense it that we are competitive. The car seems quite reliable, the drivers like it and they seem to be quite buoyant.
"We always say it at this at this time of year, but fuel loads, tire programs and test programs interfere with the ability of the teams to judge performance. Race simulations and longer runs give a better indication though of where teams are at than headline lap times, and based upon that we feel that we are competitive."
Asked whether he felt McLaren would be in a position to fight for the championship, Whitmarsh said: "I wish I could say yes.
"It may be that people are sandbagging but ourselves and Red Bull didn't do any proper qualifying simulations. Some others may have run lighter fuel than us. The winter has been better than last year, and we have two hungry, fast and great racing drivers [and that] should mean that we can win races this year. If we win enough of them then we can win championships."
Asked about Hamilton's mindset following his well-documented travails in 2011, Whitmarsh added: "He has exceptionally high standards and he won three races last year but that's not what he expects of himself. When you have a season that falls below your high expectations, I think you would, as a professional athlete, reconsider every aspect of your life and how you do that better.
"I think you can see around testing and how he has conducted himself in the media suggests that he's definitely focused on beating one, his teammate and two, everyone else."
• Live coverage of the Australian Grand Prix set for Sunday, March 18 at 1:30 a.m. Eastern Time (replay at 3 p.m. ET).
SPEED also is set to broadcast practice starting at 1:30 a.m. ET on March 16, with qualifying at 2 a.m. ET on March 17. Live streaming of the first and third practice sessions also will be available at SPEED.com.