Too early to judge McLaren says Martin Whitmarsh

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The Independent Online

McLaren are making progress with their new car after initial problems and it would be unwise to draw any conclusions from pre-season tests, team boss Martin Whitmarsh said today.

"It's simply too early to say anything definitive about the MP4-26 or indeed about any other 2011 Formula One car," he told the official website a day after 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton played down his title chances.

"Time without number, motorsport pundits have come unstuck when they've attempted to extrapolate testing times to predict race results, and I'm not about to join their number now," added Whitmarsh.

"Suffice to say that we've had a few reliability issues during testing so far, but we're confident that things are going in the right direction now."

Hamilton told reporters on Wednesday, after ending the day's testing with only the fourth fastest time, that his car was still some way off being a race winner, let alone a title challenger.

"Do I believe I have a car to win the world championship at the moment? I don't. No." he told reporters at the Circuit de Catalunya.

BBC commentator and former F1 driver Martin Brundle was quoted earlier in the week as saying the McLaren looked "a mess" out on the track and appeared to have a "fundamental issue".

McLaren were not testing on Thursday, with Hamilton and 2009 champion Jenson Button due to complete the final pre-season test on Friday and Saturday for the team that finished last year as overall runners-up.

The season starts in Australia on March 27, with champions Red Bull and Ferrari the likely pacesetters on current form in Spain.

"Let's just wait and see how the season unfolds," said Whitmarsh. "I'm sure there'll be plenty of surprises in store, and to be frank it'll be good for the sport if there are."