McLaren: We're ready for battle
READY FOR THE 2013 SEASON : Sergio Perez will have to prove himself as he partner with Jenson Button at McLaren for the 2013 season. Image: AFP.
Author: ALAN BALDWIN
LONDON, England - McLaren is ready for the 2013 Formula 1 season though they don't expect new driver Sergio Perez to go out guns blazing at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Team managing director Jonathan Neale said the first two tests in Jerez and Barcelona in February 2013 had thrown up no unpleasant surprises.
'NO MAJOR ISSUES'
Neale said: "Our car appears normal, we've had no major issues. The drivers report that the handling is good. Sergio (Perez) is getting to learn to drive a McLaren, which has slightly different characteristics to what he's been used to.
"I don't think we've seen anybody yet do a lap time that we felt we couldn't have done if we'd changed the fuel load," added Neale, whose team won seven races last year but finished third overall."
Eight different drivers have been quickest on each of the eight days of testing so far with four teams - Ferrari, Lotus, McLaren and Mercedes - top of the timesheets.
The surprise has been that champions Red Bull have yet to be fastest but times mean little in testing where teams are using different settings and running on different fuel loads according to their plans.
Neale said: "To be honest. I think most of us are out there just trying to make sure that the car that we've got is rational, behaves like the simulation and to give a chance for the drivers to get a feel for it.
"But the track temperatures have been so cold and the tyres have grained up really quickly so you've probably got one or two laps where the tyres are in the sweet spot and then you are graining and after that it's very difficult."
Neale told reporters there was a lot of speculation about where the teams were relative to each other in performance terms.
"I think most teams will be taking the pre-Melbourne spec to this next test, we've got quite a large package of bits and pieces going.
"But, a bit like the beginning of last season, nobody stands out as being head and shoulders above everybody else at the moment and nobody appears to be hanging off the back either," he said.
The season starts in Australia on March 17 2013, with McLaren the only team in the top four to have a changed line-up now that Mexican Perez has joined Jenson Button as replacement for 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton, now at Mercedes.
The 2012 season was marked by seven different winners in the opening seven races before teams got to grips with the new Pirelli tyres.
The compounds have changed again, designed to ensure more pitstops and encourage overtaking.
Neale said the 2013 season, with stable regulations and the final year of the V8 era before a new V6 turbo engine with energy recovery systems is introduced in 2014, would also be very competitive.
He said: "I wouldn't expect there to be a big shake up. It'll be a really close start to the season and then it will be about who has to go back and fix something that's wrong and who can then really get a foot down in terms of development and try and pull some clear headway."
With cold conditions in Spain, Neale expected a pattern to emerge after the first three or four races once teams had raced at some hot weather circuits like Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain.