At the end of the final day’s testing for McLaren in 2003, test driver Pedro de la Rosa finished the day at the top of the timesheets, the Spaniard setting a blistering pace in the teams 2004 contender, the MP4-19 to record yet another track record in the car Woking are convinced will propel them to world championship glory next year.
After years of Ferrari domination, McLaren hope that this new charger will finally put them back at the top of the leaderboard. Now, according to de la Rosa, they may just get their wish as in his onion the new car is definitely a gigantic leap forward.
"The car is quick. I realised as soon as I drove it that it is much quicker than the old car, even if we still have a lot of work to do,” the BBC quoted Pedro as saying. “Last year's car was competitive, but the new one is a big step forward.”
Pedro wasn’t the only one to smash a track record while behind the wheel of the new car with regular driver David Coulthard also setting some very blistering fast lap times. The Spaniard admitted that he instantly felt at ease in the new car and wasn’t even pushing it to the limit….
“It's always the same when you drive a good car - it's always easy. It doesn't feel quick, but the time is just there,” he added. “On my first day in the car, I broke the lap record. The team wanted me to slow down, but I told them: 'I'm not pushing'. Even so, the lap times kept coming down. I feel very positive. The car is so easy to drive. It is very sensitive to changes - responsive in a good way. If you have a problem, you change something, and the car behaves better."
While no one is arguing the pace the MP4-19 is displaying, the other teams, Ferrari and Williams etc, have yet to test out their 2004 contenders, so they can’t really compare. However, as de la Rosa explains what they are comparing it to is the MP4-17D as well as the all important reliability factor.
"What is important for McLaren is not how quick we were compared to the other cars, but how much quicker MP4-19 is than MP4-17D. We were the only guys with a new car, so we have to be careful [about reading too much into the times]. But the advantage we have is that we were the first to bring out a new car - and reliability is very important in F1 now, especially with the new rules on engines next year."