by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

F1 Melbourne - Preview (VMM)


Woking, United Kingdom, Mar 22, 2011

Lewis, Jenson and Martin Whitmarsh share their thoughts ahead of the Australian GP

It now seems like a very long time since we packed up our equipment in Abu Dhabi and made the journey back to Europe last November. Through the cold, dark winter, everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has been working flat-out to prepare for this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Concurrently, Lewis Hamilton has been preparing himself over the past few months with his new trainer, Antti Vierula, in order to ensure he’s in the best physical and mental condition possible for the start of the season.

He said: “It’s felt like a very long winter. I started the new season feeling fitter and more positive than ever and I’ve maintained that enthusiasm and momentum despite a somewhat difficult few weeks of winter tests.

“We can’t hide the fact that testing has been tougher than we expected: our test mileage hasn’t been as high as that of our rivals, nor have we had the outright pace of the fastest cars. Still, I have a good feeling with MP4-26: I like driving our car, I think it will look after its tyres quite well and I understand that we’ll be making further performance steps ahead of this opening race.

“Nevertheless, we know we go to Melbourne ready for battle: some teams are extremely well prepared – both from a pace and reliability point of view – but that can sometimes count for little in the unpredictable and somewhat chaotic opening races where it’s equally vital just to take points home.

“I strongly believe that, while our preparations haven’t gone as smoothly as we’d have liked, I get the impression that we’ll be arriving in Melbourne with everything finally meshing together – and that makes me really excited.”

Jenson Button, who has won the last two grands prix at the Albert Park street circuit on the outskirts of Melbourne and isn’t ruling out the possibility of making it three victories in a row, expressed his sentiments towards the people of Japan following the recent devastation the country faced.

He said: “In the past, I’d always travelled to Melbourne full of positive energy and enthusiasm. But, at the moment, my heart is with the people of Japan as they struggle to come to terms with the scope of the terrible devastation and loss of life wreaked by last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

“While the prospect of a Formula 1 race seems to pale in the face of such a disaster, there have been occasions before when the healing power of sport can actually be beneficial; an escape for people. So I go to Melbourne this weekend resolving to not only try my best, but also to salute the brave people, and my many friends, throughout Japan.

“Albert Park has been good to me: I’ve won there for the past two seasons; it’s a great circuit for racing, it always seems to create unpredictable races and, perhaps because it’s habitually at the start of the season when a precise pecking order has yet to be established, we often see fast cars running out of sequence – and the excitement that that brings. With the added issue of multiple tyre stops, it could be a very exciting and unpredictable race weekend.

“I’m regularly being asked if I can make it three wins in a row this year. On paper that might not look likely, but, seriously, who knows? I most definitely wouldn’t rule it out.”

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, spoke of how the team has pushed the envelope with our new MP4-26 car.

He said: “Over the winter, we set ourselves some extremely ambitious performance targets for MP4-26. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes are an uncompromising team and, as with every car we build, we tend to push development to the limit.

“In some cases, we’ve pushed over those limits, and the resulting lack of mileage has invariably eaten into our pre-season preparation.

“However, it’s called testing for a reason – and testing MP4-26 beyond its limit has, in some ways, been highly instructive. In actual fact, we’ve gathered a huge amount of useful data about the car, its handling characteristics and its management of the tyres. So while we’ve further fine-tuned the package for Melbourne, we’ve once again set ourselves some extremely tough targets for this opening race weekend.

“So, do I think our testing pace is representative of the pace we’ll show in Australia? No. Do I think we head into the weekend as race favourites? Unfortunately, no. But do I feel that we have the capacity to surprise a few people and be competitive? Very much so.

“As with everything we do at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we never give up: we’re fighters – that’s the spirit that has won us 20 world championships in the past and which makes us a team you can never under-estimate.”

Make sure you’re up bright and early this weekend to watch Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes in action at the Australian Grand Prix. Qualifying starts at 6am GMT (7am CET, 1am EST) on Saturday morning while the race begins at 7am (8am CET, 2am EST) Sunday morning.

Are you ready for the 2011 Formula 1 World Championship?

* Official photo and details courtesy of VODAFONE MCLAREN MERCEDES *

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