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Motorsport | Formula 1

McLaren keeps secrets well hidden

McLaren pieced together its sleek new Formula One car bit by bit at a public launch on Friday but made sure their secrets stayed well out of sight of curious rivals.

The last of the big teams to roll out their 2011 car, the Mercedes-powered team took the show to the fans with the silver racer assembled in front of a crowd of fans in the Potsdamer Platz near the old Berlin Wall.

Wheels, pieces of bodywork and even the steering wheel were carried through the crowd by team members before being attached in near silence before a final blast of wheel guns completed the task with a flourish.

However the engine and exhausts on display were only fake parts and team bosses recognised that the car they would race in the season-opener in Bahrain on 13 March would look very different.

There were no wraps for 2008 and 2009 champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button to take off the car, and yet the MP4-26 remained shrouded in secrecy even if the sidepods -- with the air intakes sculpted in the shape of an L and a J -- were distinctive.

The car had been eagerly awaited, particularly by rivals curious to see whether the 2010 runners-up had something revolutionary up their sleeves to match Renault's innovative forward-facing exhausts.

"Be warned, you haven't seen it all," team principal Martin Whitmarsh told reporters with a smile. "Quite naturally, we haven't shown you or our competitors our full hand today."

"It won't come as any surprise or shock that the exhaust solution on the car today is not what we intend to be testing or racing," declared engineering director Tim Goss. "There will be some other solutions appearing on other cars, and on our cars as well."

The drivers, in the know and happy with what was in the pipeline, were confident they could be challenging for wins from race one.

"This is the first time we have seen the car all together," said Hamilton, shivering in his race overalls, before throwing caps to the crowd and signing autographs.

"I've been here since 2007 and every year the car always looks beautiful... to really see it come out as a whole, I think it looks fantastic.

"I hope it does translate to a good feeling on the track, I'm pretty sure it will...I think we will be quite a lot stronger this year," added the winner of three races last year.

"This is our new baby," said fellow Briton Jenson Button. "This is the car that hopefully will take one of us to win the drivers' world championship and also the constructors'. We have a positive outlook on the season ahead, I'm looking forward to Bahrain and starting the season strongly - because that's a must."

The season will see five world champions on the starting grid, including Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, the 23-year-old who performed in front of far bigger Berlin crowds on his return with the title last year.

Both Red Bull and Mercedes, the team of Vettel's compatriot and Mercedes, presented their cars at the Valencia circuit in Spain on Tuesday before the first test of the season.


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