McLaren looks set for a 2011 season kick-off that could mirror its early season form from two years ago, with both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton indicating that The McLaren MP4-26 apparently suffers from a lack of downforce the unconventional MP4-26 is lacking in both downforce and reliability.

In the pre-season running to-date, McLaren lies fourth-worst on the total laps completed count – beating only the three rookie outfits – with a combined total of 842 laps in comparison to the leading Ferrari team, which has racked up 1,172 in total.

But Hamilton has been quick to point out that the MP4-26 isn’t nearly as bad as the 2009 car was at the start of that season, although the car underwent significant development and eventually became a race-winner by mid-season.

“[The MP4-26] handles really nice, better than last year’s car, but it just doesn’t have as much downforce…so that’s where it feels weak,” Hamilton is quoted as saying.

“Hopefully we’ve got some more downforce coming onto the car before the first race,” he added.

Team-mate Button expressed similar thoughts, although remained upbeat about there being plenty of potential to unlock from the new car, which sports some fundamentally different design concepts from its rivals’ cars.

“When I first jumped in [the MP4-26] the first reaction was not ‘Wow, we’re going to blow everyone away’. No,” Button is quoted by Reuters.

“It’s got a lot less downforce … But there’s nothing that really scares me about the car in a negative way, so there’s a lot we can improve with this car through general set-up work.”

  The new McLaren hasn't been on-the-pace in pre-season testing
The new McLaren hasn’t been on-the-pace in pre-season testing

The drivers are looking forward to clocking up more testing miles in the fourth and final pre-season test, scheduled for this weekend at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

“We’ve had some issues in testing in terms of getting parts to the circuit and a couple of reliability issues, so we’ve not done as much running as we would have liked, which has hurt our set-up work,” Button added.

“But we do have four days and hopefully everything’s going to run sweet at the next test, and we get a lot of laps in and we can improve the base that we have.

“There’s a lot still to extract from this car that we haven’t because we just haven’t had time to do it, we haven’t got everything together yet, so we don’t really know where we are compared to the competition.”

[Original images via GP Update and Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.