LONDON, Feb 1, 2012 (AFP) - McLaren vowed to avoid a repeat of last year's troubled winter testing as they unveiled the car which will carry the hopes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button into the new Formula One season on Wednesday.
Former world champions Hamilton and Button were left in Sebastian Vettel's slipstream for much of last year as the Red Bull driver clinched back-to-back world titles.
McLaren's failure to mount a sustained challenge has been traced back to a poor winter of testing where the Woking-based marque struggled to find a competitive set-up for their car.
However McLaren chiefs said they expect the new MP4-27 to be capable of tackling Vettel and Red Bull when the 2012 season gets under way.
"We won't know until qualifying in Australia where this car is," team principal Martin Whitmarsh said. "Last year we had, by McLaren standards, an abysmal winter testing session where we didn't have pace.
"It was a relatively stressful process, and of course I'd be much happier to be not fighting those issues.
"There's a lot of work gone into this car and we believe we're in a better position this winter compared to last."
Button and Hamilton, who finished second and fifth respectively last season, were purring with pleasure at the sight of the new McLaren car and are looking forward to testing in Jerez, Spain next week.
"It's a very exciting day for us all. It's the moment when we see how hard we've all been working," Button said.
"I want to say thanks to the guys who have been working flat out throughout the winter to develop this car.
"Testing is now very important. We've got to come out of the box and be strong."
Hamilton also enthused over the new car.
"I think it looks fantastic. It's great to be here after a great winter," he said. "The car is the most refined looking we've had for some time, so I'm excited to get back into it.
"We're coming in massively motivated, very fresh, and when you have a good-looking car, generally it's a good car, so hopefully that is the case."
Hamilton meanwhile welcomed the prospect of a Formula One season that will see no fewer than six world champions lining up on the grid.
Hamilton, Button and Vettel will be joined by Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, the highest number of world champions ever to start a Formula One season.
"We love to have competition. It's great to have so many great drivers. Hopefully there won't be too many more added to it," Hamilton said. "It's great for fans, great for the sport."
Whitmarsh meanwhile brushed off suggestions that Button and Hamilton's intense rivalry could be counter-productive. "
We don't like losing or coming second and the last two years have had their frustrations," Whitmarsh said. "But we've two drivers who are fierce competitors, they want to beat each
other very badly, yet they spur each other on."