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Rumours fly as McLaren try late launch

The team principal at McLaren, Martin Whitmarsh, is hoping to avoid any embarrassment when his team's new car makes its debut next month.

Unusually, McLaren will be one of the last teams to launch ahead of the new season, with their planned reveal scheduled for 4 February in Berlin – after the first test in Valencia that same week. It has prompted speculation from a number of their rivals that the team might have a trick up their sleeve they want none of the others to see at the Ricardo Tormo circuit from 1-3 February.

Whitmarsh maintains it is nothing as sinister as that. He said: "The car is on schedule, and that is to launch on 4 February and make it to the second test [in Jerez, 10-13 February]. We took that decision some time ago, and it hasn't split from that. It's a balance because now we have very short winters and we are developing cars to very complex technical regulations.

"We have chosen to give our aerodynamicists and engineers an extra 10 days – which doesn't sound much but in Formula One terms that's a long period of time – to find more performance. So it was always our intention [to launch late], regardless of how people interpret it, and at the end of the day it doesn't matter.

"What matters is whether the car is quick enough to win races and the world championship over the course of the season. So we will launch on 4 February, but that car will look different by the time it gets to the test a few days later, and it will then evolve very quickly by the time it gets to the first race."

Whether McLaren do bring something different to the party remains to be seen, with Whitmarsh's concern more to do with whether his team have instead missed something that will leave them playing catch-up.