Cause for concern for unhappy Whitmarsh

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McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has admitted to enduring one of the toughest days of his 24 years in Formula 1.

In a frank assessment of his team after the opening day’s practice for the Australian Grand Prix, Whitmarsh and his technical crew are at a loss to understand their latest car.

At this early stage, Jenson Button can forget winning his fourth race in five years Down Under, and Sergio Perez will have to temper his stated desperation for a maiden victory.

The duo finished 11th and 13th on the timesheet, over two seconds off the pace of reigning three-times world champion Sebastian Vettel as Red Bull took the sandbags off their car from testing after clearly masking their true pace in Jerez and Barcelona.

Suggested to Whitmarsh McLaren were “struggling a touch”, he replied: “That’s a very kind understatement because it was one of the hardest days I can recall.

“We lacked overall grip, consistency, there was a bit of under-steer, it was a poor ride, so a very difficult day. It was one where we didn’t go forward either during the course of the day, so that’s a bit of a concern. The team will be working long and hard, and although we’ve given ourselves a base we should be able to improve upon, it was a disappointingly tough day for the team.”