Lewis Hamilton's new Formula One car is not fast enough to win races at present but McLaren are working flat out to fix it, Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug admitted today.
"Obviously, there is a lack of downforce and we are currently working hard to solve this problem," he said in a question and answer supplied by the team after their disappointing pace in testing this week.
"Basically, the car feels good - that is what our drivers say. However, we are currently definitely not fast enough, not competitive enough to aim for victories."
World champion Hamilton was the slowest driver on track in Barcelona on Wednesday.
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh, who took over from Ron Dennis at the start of the month, said there was an evident problem with the car's latest aerodynamic update and engineers were working flat out to fix it.
Formula One's regulations have had a major revamp this season with the most significant aerodynamic changes in more than a decade.
"Our Mercedes-Benz engine is strong, we saw that last year, so MP4-24's performance shortfall is clearly chassis-centric," said Whitmarsh, ruling out any problem with the new KERS energy recovery system.
"It is a car's aero aspect that confers the greatest pluses and minuses to its overall performance package, and that would appear to be the case with MP4-24."
Asked whether the car was fast enough, he replied: "Not at the moment - and certainly not by our team's extremely high standards."
Yet despite clear problems with the car, Haug remains defiant: "Lewis is the world champion, and he became world champion in one of our cars.
"So anything less than success at that level is naturally regarded as unsatisfactory by us, by our partners, by the media and by the fans.
"But the problems are fixable. Many times in Formula One history have successful teams started off with a car that was not working as well as they had hoped it would.
"And many times have those successful teams engineered their way back to the front of the grid in impressively short order.
"That is what we aim to do. In fact, that is what we are already doing."
McLaren will test the car again next week in Jerez ahead of the first race of the season in Melbourne on 29 March.
"Will the car be as quick as we want it to be by March 29? Perhaps not," said Haug.
"Will it be quicker than it has been this week at the Barcelona test? Yes."