McLaren has denied it is slightly off the pace as teams enter the final week of pre-season testing.
With multiple sources reporting that Red Bull and Lotus look to be narrowly leading the 2013 field at present, Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali this week admitted he would be “very surprised” if the new F138 is quickest in Australia.
Drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez have been making similar noises about the 2013 McLaren.
Team newcomer and Mexican Perez sounded alarmed when he said the degradation of Pirelli’s new tyres is “extreme”, while Button admitted recently that while the radical new MP4-28 often feels good, “at other times it doesn’t”.
But McLaren’s managing director Jonathan Neale has this week sent out a more upbeat message, insisting the drivers have reported that the “handling is good”.
“I don’t think we’ve seen anybody yet do a laptime that we felt we couldn’t have done if we’d changed the fuel load,” he told British reporters. “A bit like the beginning of last season,” added Neale, “nobody stands out as being head and shoulders above everybody else at the moment and nobody appears to be hanging off the back either.”