Vodafone McLaren Mercedes today presented the MP4-23, the team’s 2008 Formula 1 car, at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Daimler Board, and Ron Dennis, Chairman and CEO of the McLaren Group, welcomed all the guests to the official presentation, with Lewis Hamilton, who celebrates his 23rd birthday today, and Heikki Kovalainen joined on stage by Pedro de la Rosa and fellow test driver Gary Paffett to unveil the MP4-23.
The car was completed yesterday and left the McLaren Technology Centre in the UK at around 18:00 GMT on Sunday and was driven in a Mercedes-Benz Actros to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, having covered approximately 1000kms, arriving around 10:00 this morning.
Upon arrival in Stuttgart, the car was transported to the 53,000 sqm Mercedes-Benz Museum, one of the world’s largest and most renowned car museums. About 700 Mercedes-Benz employees from the nearby manufacturing plant Stuttgart-Untertürkheim had the opportunity to attend today’s event at the end of their early shift alongside the more than 400 media and other guests. The Mercedes-Benz employees had the opportunity to enter a draw of which the lucky winners were able to meet and spend some time with Lewis and Heikki.
Following today’s event the car will be transported to the Circuito de Jerez in Southern Spain, where on Wednesday 9thJanuary Heikki and Pedro will start the test programme with two MP4-23 chassis at a private test. The team will remain at the circuit for five track days, excluding the weekend. Lewis will drive the 2008 car for the first time on Thursday 10th January alongside Heikki.
Lewis Hamilton "The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 is the coolest birthday present you can get, well it is for me anyway! To see the car for the first time at such a great place as the Mercedes-Benz museum makes it an even more memorable day. I have had the past three weeks off and spent the time training and relaxing with family and friends. I know how much work has been going on in Woking, Brixworth and here in Stuttgart and it is a great looking car. My engineer has told me that approximately 14,000 manufacturing man hours have been involved to produce the car in time for today. I will be testing it for the first time on Thursday. It is going to be a busy time but myself, Heikki, who I welcome as my new teammate, and everyone within the team is looking forward to it as we push forward together."
Heikki Kovalainen "Today is my first official event as a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver and it hasn’t come soon enough. After joining the team on the 14th December, I have already spent some time at the McLaren Technology Centre getting to know everybody and working with my engineers. It is also great to be here at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart today to meet the Mercedes-Benz employees, media and VIP guests for the first time as a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver. I was able to learn a lot last year, and hope to take that knowledge into the 2008 season. I am looking forward to contributing to the development of the car during the six main tests in the build-up to Melbourne. It is a really exciting time for me to be joining Vodafone McLaren Mercedes."
Dr Dieter Zetsche, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF THE MANAGEMENT OF DAIMLER AG AND HEAD OF MERCEDES-BENZ CARS "I am confident that, with Heikki and Lewis, we’ll have a very strong driver team on the track. All of us at Daimler are extremely proud of the tremendous track record of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. They prove once again: You can’t be with Daimler or Mercedes-Benz without wanting to belong to the best - that’s in the DNA of our company in a way. And that applies also for the motorsport."
Ron Dennis, CHAIRMAN & CEO, McLAREN GROUP "The ultimate goal of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team is to fight for both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships. We are looking forward to another competitive season as we look to build on the momentum of last year. Every single member of the team has worked extremely hard since the end of the 2007 season to get the MP4-23 on track as soon as possible, to ensure we have the maximum amount of testing time available before the cars leave for Australia. We are all extremely pleased to have the opportunity to launch our new car at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart underlining the strength of our partnership."
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO FORMULA 1, VODAFONE McLAREN MERCEDES "Development of the MP4-23 began in earnest 10 months ago and everyone in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart have worked very hard during the last few weeks, and particularly over the Christmas period, to make today’s presentation here in Stuttgart happen. In addition we have continued to benefit from tremendous support from all of our Technology Partners. We are confident, based upon the simulation and analysis which has been an integral part of the development process, that the MP4-23 represents a step forward. Of course we will continue to develop the car from now until the first race in Australia and see whether we have done enough to be at the level where we want to compete this coming season. From today we have 68 working days until the Australian Grand Prix, and everybody within the team is highly motivated to travel to Melbourne with the most competitive package possible."
Norbert Haug, VICE PRESIDENT, MERCEDES-BENZ MOTORSPORT "Our Museum is a unique place for this event. More than 160 Mercedes-Benz cars, amongst them 30 historic racing cars representing more than 100 years of Mercedes-Benz motor sport heritage create a most remarkable environment for the presentation of the new Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-23. I am really pleased that we are able to present with this car launch many of our colleagues from the nearby Untertürkheim manufacturing plant a New Years surprise today. The media presence at our compact presentation today was massive, which is an additional motivation for everybody in the team to start the 2008 season with the target to finish one point ahead instead of one point behind the opposition."
David Wheldon, GLOBAL DIRECTOR OF CUSTOMER AND BRAND EXPERIENCE, VODAFONE "Vodafone is delighted to be entering this second season as Title Sponsor and Official Mobile Partner of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. Formula 1 is all about 'Making the most of Now' and similarly, we want all our customers to get the most out of their time. We look forward to building on our successful partnership and wish the team all the best for the 2008 season."