With the eagerly awaited launch of McLaren’s 2007 challenger – the MP4-22 – McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh took some questions from the waiting media, all gathered in Valencia prior to the dazzling launch which will see the car being driven through the towns street. The launch has rumoured to cost the team $1m, but apparently the city has ut up some of the money, hoping that one day this event will help them in getting a Grand Prix event in the future.
1. What are your expectations for the 2007 Formula 1 season?
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has the expectation of winning each and every year. Inevitably people can look at our performance last season and be able to criticise us and frankly, we didn’t do a good enough job. My feeling, having been at this point of the season on many occasions before, is highly optimistic for 2007. We are devoid of the tyre competition that we have had in recent years; however we are very happy with our relationship with Bridgestone and their technical approach. We have been working hard on the engineering package and believe we have made good progress to improve our performance.
Meanwhile we have what we believe to be the most exciting driver line-up in Formula 1 for many years. Fernando is obviously a very proven product and an extraordinary double World Champion. He is still a very young and ambitious driver who wants to win many World Championships with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. His arrival in the team has been highly motivational.
Alongside Fernando we have the excitement of the debut year for Lewis. We have of course worked with Lewis for a decade so he is very well known to the team. His level of preparation and commitment is unprecedented. He has not only excelled, but exceeded our expectations with all the challenges that we have set him to reach this point. We must be a little cautious and control our enthusiasm because Formula 1 is a very challenging environment, but in time we have little doubt that Lewis will be a winning driver in the sport.
In the meanwhile we have the stability of two great test drivers in our organisation with Pedro and Gary. They’ve both been an inspiration to the team, with their professionalism and motivation throughout 2006. Their commitment to contributing to the programme is unwavering and we are delighted to have their continuity and experience to support Fernando and Lewis.
2. This must be an exciting time for the team with two new drivers and a new Title Sponsor, can you explain what it means to be launching the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team today?
The launch of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team is the culmination of more than a years work from our Marketing colleagues, and it obviously represents an important milestone for our organisation. The nature and structure of the Formula 1 team requires strong Partners to be involved, and with a Title Sponsor with the calibre, energy and breadth of Vodafone, it is a commercially exciting time for the team. Everyone involved in motor racing has the ambition of winning in Formula 1 and has great passion to do so. Therefore with the coming of each season, we look forward to the fresh challenges with anticipation. Vodafone is a highly successful company that wants to win, which is our mission and that of Mercedes-Benz. So we have the three principal Partners in the organisation sharing the same vision. This means we will all, from time to time, put pressure on each other, but that is a useful and stimulating force. In addition to Vodafone, we must also recognise the vital role played by the entire world class Partner group of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. The support we receive is invaluable and we look forward to what we hope will be a competitive season together in 2007.
Martin will be present later on today when reigning world champion Fernando Alonso will drive the silver car through the streets of Valencia to mark the launch of the 2007 challenger, a car that Fernando hopes will help him continue his momentum of winning and bring him a third drivers title.
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