McLaren confident for opening race in Bahrain

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuitbh

Next week the 2010 FIA Formula One Championship season gets underway with the Bahraini GP. The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, with the 2008 and 2009 Champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, feels ready to finally begin racing again.

It’s been a busy winter… but at last the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship is almost under way.

Testing has been busy but, as ever, a little inconclusive – simply because although all the teams have been working as hard as possible to get their cars to go as fast as is humanly possible in the time available, none of us really knows exactly how successful our rivals have been in that same endeavour.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is no different. We’re reasonably satisfied with what we’ve achieved so far, but we know better than to be complacent and we never under-estimate our rivals.

Bahrain will be hot, as ever. But it’s a fantastic facility and a great circuit, and there’s every reason to expect it to host a great season-opening grand prix.

As ever, we’ll be doing our very best to put on a decent show in front of our Bahraini partners and friends.

Jenson Button: “I’m really looking forward to getting into my car on Friday morning in Bahrain and knowing that I’m the world champion. It’s a responsibility and an honour – but it’s something I’m going to enjoy for as long as I can. I don’t want to lose that number from my car! My winter has been an incredible learning experience – joining Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has provided me with exactly the sort of challenge I needed. I have put every effort into working with the team, my engineers and learning about my car to ensure that we start the season in Bahrain in the best possible shape.

“Even after four weeks of testing, it’s incredibly difficult to predict the order ahead of the new season. There are a number of teams and drivers who appear to be in the hunt, and, as with the start of every new season, it will be fascinating to see who emerges as the team to beat. I’ve never known a team work as hard as we have done over the winter – I’ve spent more time with my engineers this winter than I have before any other season, and I feel very comfortable about my preparations.”

Lewis Hamilton: “I can’t believe the winter’s over already – it seems like only yesterday when I was racing in Abu Dhabi. It’s been a winter of two halves for me: before Christmas, I really focused on my fitness and training, working away to be as ready as possible for the new season. Since January, I’ve been fully focused on working with the team, testing the car and improving our package ahead of the opening race of the year.

“There’s been a huge workload, but it’s been fantastic to work with Jenson and the engineers to improve MP4-25, and we’re all extremely pleased with the progress we’ve made and the direction we’ve taken. I think we have a very promising car beneath us: it’s a real change of direction for us, and I think the possibilities with this car are very exciting. Now, though, it’s all about the racing – once I put my crash helmet on and pull the visor down, I know more than anything that I’m ready to go racing.”

Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “I can’t remember the start of a Formula 1 season where there’s been so much interest, excitement and anticipation. The closeness of the winter tests, our double-champion line-up, the return of a Formula 1 legend and the presence of four world champions on the grid mean that 2010 is already shaping up to be a classic season. From our side, we’ve been engaged in one of the most painstakingly diligent pre-season programmes that we’ve ever undertaken. We’ve amassed an enormous amount of data and we’ve learnt a considerable amount about MP4-25 in just four brief tests. We’ve been encouraged by our progress, we’ve been delighted with the input of both Jenson and Lewis and, finally, we feel ready.

“Make no mistake: we’re a team of racers. We’ve been waiting impatiently for the first race to arrive for many months. We feel we’ve risen to the challenge and we can’t wait to get started – Bahrain is a demanding track for both the team and the drivers and we’re looking forward enormously to racing in the home of one of our primary shareholders. It promises to be a fantastic grand prix.”