• Australian Grand Prix - FP1

Mercedes' pace looks genuine - McLaren

ESPN Staff
March 15, 2013 « Australian Grand Prix Qualifying | US Grand Prix a commercial success »
Sam Michael: "It definitely looks like the Mercedes are quite quick" © Getty Images

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael believes Mercedes is genuinely quick after watching the first practice session at the Australian Grand Prix and admits his team is not where it wants to be.

Sebastian Vettel topped the first session but Lewis Hamilton was fourth fastest, reaffirming Mercedes' impressive pace in pre-season testing.

"It definitely looks like the Mercedes are quite quick and that where they were in testing was quite genuine," Michael said. "Where everyone else fits in I don't know yet. We'll see."

McLaren finished the session in ninth and eleventh and over a second off the pace. Michael said he did not know whether that order would continue through the weekend, but admitted McLaren's changes over the winter had resulted in it falling short of its targets for the first race.

"We're not where we want and need to be at this point in time," he added. "We made quite a few changes to the car over the winter and they will be good over the course of the season.

"We looked at last year's car and said 'we could just try and squeeze a little bit more out of that and try to be competitive for the early races', but the question was where it was going to stall out in terms of the championship. That's why we've made some reasonably bold changes to the car design.

"Our intention obviously is to have a winning car right here in Melbourne, but even if we don't then at least over the course of the season it offers a lot more development potential. We can see that as well in the factory, we can see the areas where it's improving.

"There's three main changes to the car aerodynamically and the front pull-rod is one of them. Whenever you change something that's very well optimised it is always very difficult to get it right straight away. That happened to Ferrari over the last winter but by the fourth or fifth race they were there."

However, Michael says McLaren understands the car's issues and is currently addressing them at the factory.

"Most the understanding of what we need to improve is there. How we do it is what we're doing now. The differences to last year's car we understand pretty well, but to achieve what we need to achieve, we're still working away on that."