McLaren unveiled their 2013 Formula One car with an ear-splitting blast from the past on Thursday as the team celebrated 50 years in motor racing and looked forward to returning to the top this season.
While the majority of the changes made to the 2013 challenger of the second
most successful Formula 1 team will be mainly under the sleek, carbon-fibre body, there are some external areas of change.
The nose of the car has a higher profile than that of 2012's MP4-27 when it was first introduced prior to last year's season. The profile of the new car's sidepods has also been modified and a significant amount of work has gone into the rear bodywork.
This last part is significant as the shape of the rear bodywork behind the exhaust outlets determines how much of the exhaust can be channelled to the car's diffuser. Exhaust blown diffusers have been banned but teams are still keen on regaining as much of the lost downforce as possible.
The new McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 F1 racing car for the 2013 season is unveiled at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, England. AFP
Despite which, many racing drivers outside of F1 have noted that last year's cars looked visibly more difficult to drive than that of previous years.
Paying tribute to the company's late founder Bruce McLaren, who set up the company in 1963, a succession of winning cars spanning the decades were driven around an ornamental lake and into the futuristic factory atrium in a wall of sound before the sleek new MP4-28 was revealed.
They included Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi's 1974 M23 car, compatriot Ayrton Senna's dominant MP4/4 from 1988 and - with the audience reaching for their earplugs - Mika Hakkinen's title-winning MP4-13 from a decade later.
Britain's Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, will be the effective leader on the track with new Mexican team mate Sergio Perez chasing his first win after two seasons with Sauber.
Brazilian Formula 1 driver Emerson Fittipaldi drives a 1973 McLaren-Cosworth M23 F1 past the crowd during the Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex. AFP (files)
Perez made clear he was out for more than just the occasional top step of the podium, however, with a team that finished third overall last year and is hungry for a first constructors' title since 1998.
"I want to win the championship, that's my target," declared the 23-year-old, standing alongside a smiling Button after the pair drove into the factory - the Mexican leading the more experienced Briton - in McLaren sportscars.
Button said he was raring to go in a car that looked, on the surface, very similar to the one that won seven races last season.
"It's exactly the same colour scheme so some people might look at this and go 'ah, it looks kind of similar to last year' but I tell you, this is completely different," said Button. "Under the skin, it is so, so different.
"I think that's why it's such an exciting season."
Lowe may go
The Briton, now 33 and in his fourth season at McLaren after winning his title with Brawn GP, declared himself more excited than ever about the challenge ahead.
"It has been a long winter but also most of the winter I have been so excited. I feel like a kid again, like when I was 20 years old," he told the audience. "I always get excited about a new car but for some reason this year more so."
Much of that excitement might have something to do with the departure of 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who made his debut with McLaren in 2007, to rivals Mercedes at the end of last season.
Hamilton was not the only notable absentee at Woking, although his title-winning MP4-23 car made a noisy entrance, with long-serving technical director Paddy Lowe playing no part in the launch after being linked with a move to Mercedes.
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 drivers Jenson Button and Checo Perez pose for the photographers with the newly unveiled MP4-28 car at McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, England. AP
"One certainty is that Paddy will be a part of the team for another year," said McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh.
"It is less certain, as has been speculated in the media, beyond that but it's something I'm sure we will have some certainty on in the near future.
"Clearly there is a lot of media interest and I think it's good that Paddy concentrates on doing his job. I don't think he wants to create any embarrassment to the team or any of his colleagues," added Whitmarsh.
"So at his own election he felt it was inappropriate for him to be here," he added.
Whitmarsh said McLaren had to be more consistent after failing to make the most of what was, at least at the start and end of last season, the quickest car on the grid.
"Clearly we can't be satisfied with an outcome where we win quite a few races, are fast most of the time, but don't actually win the championship," he said.
(With inputs from HT Correspondent, Reuters)
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