McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh has admitted the Woking-based squad are in trouble ahead of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
His remarks came after a dire Friday Free Practice saw the cars fail to trouble the front-running Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus cars.
“I think we should be worried about the pace. It is a tough day in the office for everyone at the moment, we are lacking grip and there is a lot of head scratching at the moment, but certainly we are lacking pace.” said Whitmarsh, who has overseen McLaren’s F1 activities since taking over from Ron Dennis in early 2009.
“I think we are still learning and there is a lot we still need to learn about this car. But we have struggled frankly to quite understand how it is performing – understanding the tyres and the car.
“We took the decision to make a lot of changes and knew that to some extent that would put us back a little bit, but we were hoping to get on top of that before the first race. As of today we are still undoubtedly struggling and that is something we need to gather good information on and work through it this weekend.”
Technical Director Sam Michael however saw light at the end of the tunnel.
“In practice, we’ve not done much more than what we’ve done in testing. You don’t have knowledge of what people have done until you’ve gone through an official session.
“Whenever you change something that’s very well optimised, it is a bit more difficult to get it right straightaway. That happened to Ferrari last winter, to some extent, but by the fourth or fifth race they were there.
“I think most of the understanding of where we need to improve is there. I think a lot of 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.”
McLaren appeared to be floundering on setup and direction with problems affecting the floor of Sergio Perez’s car and keeping the Mexican in the pits for a large slice of FP2. Button meanwhile claimed the car ‘had no grip’ and Sky F1’s Martin Brundle, watching from the trackside, said the MP4-28 was both understeering and oversteering quite dramatically.