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McLaren insists late car launch ‘optimal’

McLaren has rejected any claims it has fallen behind in the development of its 2011 car.

It had emerged that that the Mercedes powered MP4-26 would not get its maiden run until after an interim 2010 car contests the opening group test at Valencia.

But Paddy Lowe, the British team’s engineering director, said during a teleconference on Thursday that McLaren sees its plans as “optimal”.

“It’s always been in our plans to launch it after the first test,” he said.

“One of the reasons was we wanted to make use of the first test to work with the car as a stable and known platform while we understood the new (Pirelli) tyres,” added Lowe.

“It also gave us a bit more time in the programme for the new car.”

One theory about McLaren’s approach is that the 2011 car features some key innovations that the team either wants to spend more time perfecting or shield from its rivals for as long as possible.

McLaren pioneered the so-called F-duct last year that was ultimately copied by almost every team.

“Yes, there will be some new elements,” team boss Martin Whitmarsh admitted to F1’s official website, “but as you can imagine I’m not prepared to add more detail at the moment!”