Australian GP: McLaren preview

The Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne's Albert Park on March 9th heralds the start of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship. The race marks the beginning of David Coulthard's eighth season with West McLaren Mercedes, with team-mate Kimi ...

The Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne's Albert Park on March 9th heralds the start of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship. The race marks the beginning of David Coulthard's eighth season with West McLaren Mercedes, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in his second year.

As part of the team's 2003 strategy, West McLaren Mercedes will start the new campaign with the MP4-17D, a significantly developed version of the 2002 car, before introducing the MP4-18 during the European season.

David Coulthard:

"There is always a feeling of excitement and anticipation that accompanies the start of a new campaign. After all the hard and focused work that has taken place within the West McLaren Mercedes team during the off-season, we are now looking forward to getting back to racing and establishing if our efforts will generate good results. We do feel confident that we will have a competitive car for 2003, however we are aware of the challenge and will have to wait and see how we perform in Melbourne."

"We are also looking forward to establishing how the revised qualifying system will demand new tactics to ensure we extract the full potential of myself and the cars. McLaren has a good record in Australia having won the event seven times, which is more than any other constructor, and includes my victory of '97, which was my first for West McLaren Mercedes. The Albert Park circuit is located only 10 minutes from the city centre, so we actually get to spend some time there, which in the case of Melbourne is very well received."

Kimi Raikkonen:

"It was certainly a memorable start to the season last year in Australia, with the infamous first corner incident! Although I emerged from the melee at the back of the pack I secured third position, which was my first Formula One podium, a result I am looking to at least equal this year. There is a good feeling of motivation at West McLaren Mercedes, we have conducted some positive tests with the MP4-17D during the off-season and it will now be great to get back to racing again, particularly in Melbourne."

"The 3.295 mile/5.303km Albert Park street circuit is fairly smooth and flowing, but not all that fast and therefore requires a high downforce configuration. It will also be interesting to see how the new race weekend schedule, in particular the one-lap qualifying, will work. The Australian Grand Prix is a firm favourite with all the teams, the locals fans are always very passionate and appreciative."

Alexander Wurz:

"West McLaren Mercedes has operated an intensive and constructive test schedule during the off season, which began on track in the first week of December 2002 in Barcelona. Since then we have conducted 16 separate test sessions, which has seen us visit six different circuits incorporating 49 track days. In addition to Barcelona, we have travelled to Valencia, Jerez, Paul Ricard, Imola and Silverstone completing some 16,000km. Following the Australian Grand Prix we will move to Jerez, and continue the development programme in preparation for the Malaysian race."

Martin Whitmarsh, Managing Director, McLaren International

"Everyone at West McLaren Mercedes is looking forward to 2003 Australian Grand Prix. There has been no effort spared during the off season, the entire team has worked incredibly hard with the aim of increasing our overall competitiveness. Although there are no quick fixes, we do not intend to continue to under perform. In order to achieve this objective, West McLaren Mercedes will be beginning the season with the MP4-17D, a significantly developed version of the car that was at the Japanese Grand Prix. A package that itself underwent substantial modifications during the course of 2002."

"The MP4-17D has new transmission, a new rear suspension package, a new aerodynamics package, along with the new front suspension we incorporated at the end of 2002.The MP4-18 will be introduced during the European season, at a point where it represents an improved package."

Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedez-Benz Motorsport

"We are looking forward to the start of the 2003 season. Everybody in the team has worked extremely hard to improve our performance and we set the course for this season by modifying and further strengthening our organisation. The entire team acts well together and this goes for our tyre partner Michelin as well. There is still some uncertainty about the consequences of the new rules in Formula One, but our team will approach these changes in a positive and constructive form of mind in order to present the best motorsport to the worldwide audience."

-mclaren-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers David Coulthard , Kimi Raikkonen , Alexander Wurz , Norbert Haug , Martin Whitmarsh
Teams Mercedes , McLaren