- Malaysian Grand Prix
McLaren expect Ferrari and Mercedes improvement
McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale says Mercedes and Ferrari will be more competitive in upcoming races than they were in Australia.
McLaren itself arrived in Melbourne with a car expected to be well off the pace, but new upgrades worked instantly and saw it as the closest challenger to Red Bull during the first race of the season. Neale said that the team was pleased with how it had performed, but that the track didn't allow every team to show a true reflection of its competitiveness.
"Although we didn't win the race we were pleased with the performance of our car; that was a confidence booster," Neale said. "But we're not for one minute thinking that we've seen the best of Ferrari or the best of Mercedes at this stage. We watched each other carefully through winter testing and I'm absolutely sure both of those teams have more to bring. In terms of the nature of the circuit, once we get to a circuit such as Malaysia with much hotter track temperatures and certainly to circuits like Barcelona which is pretty challenging, we can test the cars more fully."
Although pleased with how McLaren had progressed in a short space of time prior to Australia, Neale said the team still wasn't satisfied, and that there was a lot of work to be done in order to catch Red Bull.
"Not until we're on the front row of the grid I wouldn't say [we're happy]. We don't think we have the quickest car out there, evidently we didn't and we are working very hard over the next few races to try to make sure that Lewis and Jenson can get on to the front row for qualifying. I think there's still a reasonable amount of work to do. There are some areas of the car that we're satisfied with but clearly at this stage it's all about how do we exploit the tyres and how do we get the downforce on the car."
Neale also said McLaren was not getting too confident about what could be achieved in Malaysia due to the threat of rain, pointing to last year's race when the team was caught out by changeable conditions and failed to get through the first qualifying session.
"If you remember last year we and Ferrari found ourselves in sort of P22-23, which is always very uncomfortable for a Saturday evening. We're going to be running when there is a high possibility of rain, but that'll make it interesting for the spectators and very stressful for us teams. Looking at a wet race this early on you'll be checking to see how the Pirelli tyres work in the rain. We have some experience with torrential rain in Barcelona during winter testing, but we haven't actually done much running on the inters yet. But that's the same for everybody, at least one thing that we can take regardless of what the conditions are is that we've all got to go through them."