Jenson Button and Sergio Perez take the wraps off the McLaren 2013 challenger
Woking team show off MP4-28 as post-Hamilton era begins
By Pete Gill and James Galloway. Last Updated: 05/02/13 9:07am
Life without Lewis Hamilton at McLaren has begun in earnest after the team launched their new 2013 charger, the MP4-28 - a car which Jenson Button has vowed is the best in the team's history.
At a glittering ceremony at the team's Woking headquarters hosted by Sky Sports F1's Natalie Pinkham, Jenson Button and Sergio Perez took the wraps off the car the team hope will be capable of usurping World Champions Red Bull.
"I know the engineers have left absolutely no stone unturned in wringing every ounce of performance from every available area," declared Button. "This year's car is the best we've ever made."
Quite the accolade given the extensive wealth of McLaren's success over the last 50 years, with the MP4-28's unveiling showcased by a roll-call of the team's previous title-winning chargers as the team commenced celebrations of their half-century anniversary.
F1 on Sky Sports in 2013
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Yet McLaren's year of 2013 will not be defined by memories of the past but their hopes for a profitable future after the wrenching departure of Hamilton to Mercedes. Indeed, even while the new charger took centre stage, both Hamilton and, more pertinently, Paddy Lowe remained conspicuous by their absence throughout - the McLaren Technical Director a non-attendee at an event unveiling his latest work following widespread speculation he could follow Hamilton to Mercedes.
Asked whether Lowe was poised to leave Woking for good, Whitmarsh insisted: "The one certainty is that Paddy will be part of the team for another year. It's less certain - as I think has been speculated in the media - beyond that but I'm sure we'll have some certainty in the near future."
As expected, with the regulations fundamentally unchanged from last season to the new and the MP4-27 arguably the fastest car on view for the bulk of the 2012 campaign, the new car carries a striking similarity to its predecessor. But first appearances can be deceptive.
In one clear change, McLaren have followed Ferrari's lead in switching to a pullrod front suspension for 2013, while the back of the car appears even more tightly sculptured than before. It's not quite revolution, but the changes amount to a lot more than mere evolution.
"McLaren have taken a risk: They've changed the design concept so the car has more potential, but it may take time to fully exploit," commented Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz.
"The pullrod front suspension is like the 2012 Ferrari, and the high nose is unlike their previous concept."
Indeed, while on the whole the new car might look much like the old, Button acknowledged that first impressions can be misleading.
"It might look similar because it has the same colour scheme, but this [car] is completely different to last year - under the skin it's so, so different," said the 2009 World Champion.
"That's why I think it's an exciting season for us."
Perez, meanwhile, appeared particularly buoyant amid his first experience of a McLaren car launch and made clear that he felt "very motivated" to try and achieve "the big targets" the team have set themselves for 2013.
"Definitely I want to win the championship. When you come to the best team that's what you have to do," the 23-year-old said.
Testing on Sky Sports
From dawn to dusk, Sky Sports Online will be providing live interactive commentary from trackside at both Jerez and Barcelona on every day of testing this winter, while Sky Sports News will be providing regular live updates from the tests, starting with Jerez on February 5-8.
A round-up show featuring the day's interviews from Jerez will go out at 9pm each evening of the test on Sky Sports F1.
Although the high-profile exit of Hamilton has been viewed in most quarters as a setback for the team for 2013, Whitmarsh believes the new blend of youth and experience they now possess in their line-up will deliver the goods for them.
"Jenson is driving better than ever - he's the most experienced driver in Formula 1, but he makes every ounce of that experience count: he's peerless in his ability to read a race and one of the very fastest drivers out there. He's a consummate professional, too, and will revel in working hard to drive this team through the year," Whitmarsh added.
"Checo [Perez] joins us after a sensational 2012 season and he's immediately proved that he's intelligent, modest, hard-working and, make no mistake; very, very quick.
"Of course, there'll be a learning curve to overcome as he gets used to our organisation, particularly during the hustle and bustle of the early-season race weekends, but he understands that we are placing no pressure on him."
The 2013 car launches
Lotus - January 28th, Enstone.
McLaren - January 31st, Woking.
Force India - February 1st, Silverstone.
Ferrari - February 1st, Maranello.
Sauber - February 2nd, Hinwil.
Red Bull - February 3rd, Milton Keynes.
Mercedes - February 4th, Jerez.
Toro Rosso - February 4th, Jerez.
Caterham - February 5th, Jerez.
Marussia - February 5th, Jerez.
Williams - February 19th, Barcelona.