McLaren MP4-24 hits the track

Pedro de la Rosa gave the new McLaren MP4-24 its first shake down today in a private test at the new Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimau, Portugal.

The new car – featuring heavily revised bodywork, re-sculpted front and rear wings, slick tyres and a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) – was unveiled at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking on Friday and will now undergo critical pre-season testing programme ahead of the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne before a testing ban comes into force.

The test team completed 18 laps in Portimau today with de la Rosa setting a best time of 1m 28.719. The Spaniard was happy with the handling of the car and reported no major problems.

“It s always an exciting moment when you get behind the wheel of a brand new car for the first time – and, given the extent of the rule changes we ve addressed over the winter, today was more tense than usual,” he said.

“However, I m happy to report that the car behaved just as we believed it would from our data and we carried out a number of runs, gaining in confidence as we ran through a number of systems checks.”

“Obviously, we have yet to really push the MP4-24 to its limits and we will start running more laps on Monday but this was a constructive start and has given us some confidence.

“Given the limits on testing this year, it s now essential that we work productively in order to develop the car ahead of the first race of the season. We have a busy few weeks ahead of us but everyone within the team is really looking forward to the work ahead.”

De la Rosa resumes the car s pre-season programme at Portimao on Monday and Tuesday before handing over to Lewis Hamilton on Wednesday. Heikki Kovalainen will conclude the four-day test session on Thursday.