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The Valencia roundup and McLaren's new car

We've got the lowdown on all the action from Valencia and we talk through McLaren's new car

Posted Feb 06, 2011 by Weekend Round-Up

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button

The first official testing session of the 2011 season drew to a close on Thursday last week and it seems that the teams who ended last year on a high, are looking in fine form for this forthcoming season.

Red Bull chalked up the fastest time on day one of the testing, Sebastian Vettel’s time was then swiftly beaten by Ferrari and Fernando Alonso on day two with Renault’s Robert Kubica eventually topping the lap time chart with a blistering best lap time of 1.13:144.

Many are saying, myself included, that having three different drivers top the time sheet on each day of the testing can only mean a very close, exciting and hotly contested 2011 season! Add to this the fact that in Bahrain there will be five world champions on the grid and you’ve got a recipe for a very exciting year.

I maintain that Vettel is going to be very strong this season and the man to beat. The young champion finished top on day one and then second on day two before he let his team mate Mark Webber drive for the entirety of Thursday. That kind of consistent performance sets such a great stage for Bahrain in March and will only add to the momentum of reigning champions Red Bull.

Friday saw the much anticipated unveiling of the new McLaren – Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button presented the new model to press and excited onlookers and the Englishmen could barely contain their own excitement for the new car as it was clear the duo were bullish about their chances of becoming world champions once again.

I still maintain that McLaren made a mistake by missing the first testing session of the season although they say that they wanted to spend more time designing the car. My gut feeling is that they haven’t left long enough to test the car fully before the first race of 2011 in Bahrain.

McLaren driver Jenson Button labelled the car his “new baby” adding that “it is beautiful”. Teammate Hamilton was more focused on the good he thinks the car can do for the team saying that he hopes it will make them world champions.

The car does indeed look great and nobody can deny the new McLaren’s technical superiority as the British team announced a number of innovative aerodynamic design features but at this stage they are essentially gambles rather than proven enhancements. The bodywork has been very carefully sculpted with an engine cover that features two air inlets and a number of unseen and unusual shapes bedeck the front wing. The sidepod air intakes are L-shaped which McLaren says will improve airflow to the rear wing and increase downforce. It’s a risk but if it works it will pay dividends!

In 2010, McLaren was the third fastest car for most of the season and team bosses are hoping that these design innovations will really close the gap between to Ferrari and Red Bull. It isn’t going to be an easy season though because Ferrari and Red Bull look in really good shape after the testing in Valencia not to mention Renault who also look very quick. Hamilton and Button naturally remain confident – but quite frankly I’d be worried if they weren’t.

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