F1: Martin Whitmarsh admits McLaren are 'undoubtedly struggling'

McLaren slow during practice for the Australian Grand Prix

Martin Whitmarsh has admitted McLaren are “undoubtedly struggling” two days before the Formula One campaign starts in earnest.

Following the opening two 90-minute practice sessions for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, McLaren duo Jenson Button and Sergio Perez found themselves languishing down in 11th and 13th positions.

The Woking-based marque opted for a comprehensive redesign of their car over the winter, despite the stability in the regulations.

The belief was they would hit the ground running and from there be able to continually develop the car to keep it ahead of the pack.

The problem is, McLaren are comfortably behind their four main rivals in Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes, instead finding themselves in the midfield alongside Sauber and Force India.

Team principal Whitmarsh said: "We took the decision to make quite a lot of changes, and we were hoping to get on top of them before the first race.

"As of today we are undoubtedly struggling. We are working through it over the course of this weekend."

Out in front at the end of both sessions at Melbourne's Albert Park was reigning triple world champion Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull, with his fastest lap of one minute 25.908secs.

Not once at the end of his six days in the car in testing did Vettel finish top of the timesheet, but it is clear the latest creation of design guru Adrian Newey is again a title contender.

With the drivers turning to the fastest of the two Pirelli tyres available this weekend - the supersoft - over the second half of the second session, Vettel finished a quarter of a second up on team-mate Mark Webber.

Mercedes at least appear as if they can challenge the Red Bulls as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were third and seventh quickest, although the closing stages of FP2 turned into a nightmare.

Rosberg, who finished just over four tenths of a second adrift of Vettel, pulled off track with a gearbox issue with four minutes remaining.

Three minutes prior to that Hamilton locked up at one stage before careering across the gravel and nudging his nose into a tyre wall, with the early suggestion being it was a car fault rather than driver error.

The 28-year-old, on his debut weekend for his new team, should have placed higher, but made another mistake earlier in the session on his one outing on the supersofts with a run across the grass.

Sandwiched in between the Mercedes pair were the Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean as the team seek to prove last season was no flash in the pan when the Finn was third overall.

Ferrari are also in the hunt, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa sandwiching Hamilton in sixth and eighth, with the latter within a second of Vettel.

Behind the top eight the rest were found wanting, with Force India's Adrian Sutil, on his return to F1 after a year on the sidelines, leading the way.

Sutil, though, was 1.5secs behind German compatriot Vettel, with Nico Hulkenberg on his maiden outing for Sauber completing the top 10, but over two seconds down.

Button finished 2.386s behind, followed by Paul Di Resta in his Force India, and then Perez, leaving McLaren staring at the prospect of not even qualifying in the top 10 tomorrow.

Of the five rookies in F1 this year, Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez was the pick down in 15th, with Williams' Valtteri Bottas 18th ahead of Marussia's Jules Bianchi.

Max Chilton finished 4.692s behind Vettel in 21st, whilst Geido van der Garde for Caterham again brought up the rear, losing an hour in FP2 after spinning into the gravel.

PA

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum