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FEBRUARY 9, 1998

McLaren unveils the MP4/13

MCLAREN gave the motor racing press a sneak preview of the new McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13 at Woking last week, but played down suggestions that the team will be a major contender for the World Championship this year. "Our feet are firmly on the ground," commented McLaren boss Ron Dennis. "We have no interest in predicting our competitiveness - but it is hard to believe we could have worked harder designing and building the new MP 4/13."

The new car is the first McLaren to be designed with input from Adrian Newey, the former Williams chief designer who joined McLaren in August last year. Newey said that he does not know what to expect from the new car but that "the goal is to win the World Championship".

Dennis was keen to stress the amount of time that the team has spent in aerodynamic work, claiming 12,000 man-hours in recent months. This will be an advantage as the team has suffered badly from poor chassis in recent years. There is no doubt, however, that the windtunnel currently being used by the team at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington is antiquated in comparison to those of the other F1 operations and that McLaren desperately needs to push ahead with the construction of a new facility at its planned headquarters at Mizens Farm, to the north of Woking. This is still at least two years away. While the arrival of Newey will clearly help the team to become more competitive, it remains to be seen whether he can do the job without the right tools.

The prototype MP4/13 appeared in an orange color scheme, as was the case last year, and the team plans to have a full brand launch in Barcelona on February 19. The car is expected to continue to be silver with the backing from West, Mercedes-Benz and Mobil being supplemented with new sponsorship from Schweppes, Warsteiner and Finlandia Vodka.

The team will begin testing the prototype MP4/13 on Wednesday in Barcelona. The new car will be the first McLaren to run on Bridgestone tires and the team hopes that this will help to give the team a competitive edge.

Dennis says that the team has no internal problems relating to the decision at the European GP at Jerez in October to order David Coulthard to move over to let Mika Hakkinen to take the victory. Our sources suggest that this is not strictly true as Coulthard is still unhappy about what happened.

Dennis made a special point of stressing that the new car has passed all of the crash tests, the suggestion being that some of the other teams are finding it rather more difficult to get through the stringent new demands of the regulations.