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FEBRUARY 5, 2011

Launch feature: McLaren - you've seen nothing yet!

McLaren may have launched its new MP4-26 in Berlin but the car unveiled had a 2010 specification nose and no sign of any trick exhaust treatment which is expected to be seen before the season starts in Bahrain on March 13.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh smiled and cautioned: "Be warned - you haven't seen it all! There are some interesting bits on the car that you can see and some bits that we have hidden from you and our competitors. We will start testing next week by which time the car will have moved on."

The most visually striking feature of the car was the new raised U-shaped sidepods.

"There are some novel features on the car," admitted technical director Paddy Lowe. "the long wheelbase and the sidepods are probably the most obvious examples. The sidepod solution is quite unique and it has given us a new envelope to drive the performance to the rear end of the car. We want to get the rear end working as well as possible following the loss of performance caused by the banning of the double-diffuser."

"It has been satisfying to see the team come up with these ideas and keep thinking outside of the box. If you look at the figures and compare the performance we get out of the car aerodynamically with the restrictions that exist, and compare where we were 10 or 20 years ago, it's really quite staggering what can be done from quite a limited set of regulations."

Lowe also acknowledged that the reintroduction of KERS has been a big project. "In 2009 we had a package that involved in total three units - a motor on the engine and then a box on each sidepod," he explained. "The solution we now have is much more integrated with, effectively, all the electronics and storage combined into one unit in one zone. That makes it a lot easier to manage and better for weight distribution. We have a common system developed by Mercedes High Performance Engines and also used by Mercedes GP, so we needed to find a package that would accommodate the needs of both teams."

Whereas the new Ferrari retains pushrod suspension as does the Sauber C30, which uses a Ferrari gearbox, McLaren has opted for a pull rod rear suspension.

"We went for pull rod principally for aero requirements at the rear," explained engineering chief Tim Goss. "We looked at what we could get out of push rod and also the requirements of wishbone positioning at the rear of car to satisfy aero requirements and the pull rod solution came out ahead.

McLaren will track test the MP4-26 for the first time in Jerez next week and Goss added: "The main focus over the next two tests will be evaluating the new configuration and making sure we have delivered performance as expected aerodynamically. We have to get KERS working and evaluate the Pirelli tyres as well so it will be about evaluation and then when we get to the Bahrain test the emphasis will change to putting a performance update package on the car.

"It's no surprise to anyone involved in F1 throughout last season and the start of this, that exhaust solutions are a significant part of performance on the car and it will equally be no surprise that the exhaust solution that was on the car we presented today is not what we intend to be testing or racing throughout this winter period and from Bahrain on. There will be some other solutions appearing on other cars as well."

Commenting on the Renault solution which has dominated paddock talk at the first week of testing, Lowe said: "It is one we looked at over the winter but you will have to wait and see what we do. It's not trivial changing from one to another and it may seem extreme to get your exhausts to where Renault has but, in reality, it's not that far. There are a few challenges and generally you've got electrical boxes in the sidepod."

Lewis Hamilton has nothing but praise for the looks of the MP4-26 and the effort put in by the team, while team mate Jenson Button admitted he feels more comfortable inside the car now that he has been able to have input into its design.

"I feel a lot more at home now," he said, "more like a part of the car. I haven't driven it yet of course, but I feel good. I am the limiting factor because I'm the taller driver. But I'm happy that my voice has been heard."

Both Whitmarsh and Button seemed firmly behind the concept of F1's moveable rear wing to improve overtaking.

"You don't go to the trouble of doing a comprehensive survey asking people what they want and then ignore it," he said. "There is a duty of responsibility to do something. I think it will be aasier to deal with too much overtaking."

Button added: "We need to see what the case is with the rear wing, we won't know until we get to races. It can only be activated when you're within one second, and it's very difficult to do that."