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F1: Stakes rarely higher as McLaren prepares for car launch


Fans of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will get their first glimpse on January 29 of the car they hope will win the 2010 Formula One World Championship.

McLaren is set to launch the MP4-25 on that day with the event’s location unconfirmed but expected to be at its Woking HQ confirmed as the Newbury, Berkshire, HQ of its sponsor Vodafone. The event will be streamed live online.


The car will then get its first track outing on Monday February 1, at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, during the year’s first F1 winter testing session.

The first day of testing was slated to be undertaken by McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa. But the veteran Spaniard has just signed for Sauber, meaning that McLaren may no longer wish him to get a hands-on preview of its new machinery.

Lewis Hamilton is due on track on Tuesday 2 with Jenson Button set to make his driving debut for McLaren on Wednesday 3.

Last year’s winter testing was a sobering experience for the team and its supporters as it became increasingly clear that the MP4-24 was not up to the task of winning Lewis Hamilton a second world drivers’ championship.

As the first race in Australia drew nearer it was more and more obvious that McLaren had gone down a design cul-de-sac compared to teams such as Williams, Toyota and Brawn GP, all of whom were equipped with the controversial double diffuser.

By contrast Jenson Button found himself unexpectedly equipped with a timesheet-topping piece of machinery that soon had F1 fans and insiders alike speculating about his chances of securing a title of his own. With uncanny accuracy, as things turned out.

With two world champions on the books, the stakes for McLaren have rarely been higher. The team needs to demonstrate immediately at Valencia that it hasn’t hit the same sort of development problems that cursed the entire first half of its 2010 season.

It needs to demonstrate immediately that the promise of a championship-winning car with which it persuaded Button to switch teams can be made good.

Certainly Lewis Hamilton expressed his determination some months back to be closely involved in the development process rather than reining back for the winter, as he did following his 2008 title fight.

Early February could therefore be a tense time for the team, its drivers and its fans.

• What of the other British-based F1 squads? Renault and Williams are both set to launch at Valencia while Red Bull and Force India have confirmed they will not be attending the first test, debuting a week later at Jerez. Virgin and Lotus are expected to present their offerings at the same time.

The team formerly known as Brawn GP will presumably be rebranded as Mercedes for its launch at the company’s premises in Stuttgart on Monday January 25.


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