McLaren believes it must focus more on its qualifying speed if it is going to take the fight to Red Bull Racing and Ferrari at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.
Although both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button showed in Bahrain that the race pace of the MP4-25 is a match for its rivals, the team was left on the back foot by being more than one second off the pole position time in qualifying for the season opener. Both McLaren drivers think that they must spend more time working on their single-lap pace.
"Definitely, because our race pace is not too bad and our understanding of the car felt pretty good in the race," said Hamilton. "I think clearly the most important part for us is to get the qualifying sorted – understand how to get the most out of the car on that single lap and clearly the qualifying position perhaps has more of an impact that it did in the past."
Hamilton said that the team has been flat out at its Woking, UK factory to try and understand why its form in qualifying was so different to its race pace.
"In the simulator, we are trying to work on the car, work on the setup, trying to understand exactly how the car is different from heavy fuel to light fuel and clearly we have another Friday now – each Friday you learn more and more – but this Friday we are definitely a step ahead of where we were the last Friday test," he said. "So we'll continue doing the same program, probably, but try to really extract maybe more from two runs or the first two sessions to understand how to warm up the tires, making sure the tire temperatures are perfect."
Button added: "I think we maybe concentrated more on the race pace than on qualifying, but that's not all of it. With the downforce level we had, we couldn't get the best out of the car in qualifying and we couldn't get the tires in the right working range. But in the race we could, and the balance was much better.
"It's a big margin in qualifying. It was a very strange qualifying, it was very windy. We weren't on the pace and it's an area we definitely need to improve on. This is a lower-downforce circuit – Bahrain ended up being Monaco downforce, whereas we didn't come with that. So it was tricky in qualifying to get the best out of it.
"If you compare Lewis [Hamilton] to Sebastian [Vettel], it was 1.1 seconds, which shocked us – a big, big shock. I think it shocked a lot of people, even Ferrari, to have the Red Bull on pole. Our strong points were high-speed [corners]; in the low-speed we struggled a little bit compared to those two cars. But I think here we will be a lot more competitive. In the simulator we're looking forward to it, I'm looking forward to driving here."