WOKING, England (Reuters) - McLaren unveiled their 2013 Formula One car with an ear-splitting blast from the past on Thursday as the team celebrated 50 years in motor racing and looked forward to returning to the top this season.
Paying tribute to the company’s late founder Bruce McLaren, who set up the company in 1963, a succession of winning cars spanning the decades were driven around an ornamental lake and into the futuristic factory atrium in a wall of sound before the sleek new MP4-28 was revealed.
They included Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi’s 1974 M23 car, compatriot Ayrton Senna’s dominant MP4/4 from 1988 and - with the audience reaching for their earplugs - Mika Hakkinen’s title-winning MP4-13 from a decade later.
Britain’s Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, will be the effective leader on the track with new Mexican team mate Sergio Perez chasing his first win after two seasons with Sauber.
Perez made clear he was out for more than just the occasional top step of the podium, however, with a team that finished third overall last year and is hungry for a first constructors’ title since 1998.
“I want to win the championship, that’s my target,” declared the 23-year-old, standing alongside a smiling Button after the pair drove into the factory - the Mexican leading the more experienced Briton - in McLaren sportscars.
Button said he was raring to go in a car that looked, on the surface, very similar to the one that won seven races last season.
”It’s exactly the same colour scheme so some people might look at this and go ‘ah, it looks kind of similar to last year’ but I tell you, this is completely different,“ said Button. ”Under the skin, it is so, so different.
“I think that’s why it’s such an exciting season.”
The Briton, now 33 and in his fourth season at McLaren after winning his title with Brawn GP, declared himself more excited than ever about the challenge ahead.
“It has been a long winter but also most of the winter I have been so excited. I feel like a kid again, like when I was 20 years old,” he told the audience. “I always get excited about a new car but for some reason this year more so.”
Much of that excitement might have something to do with the departure of 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who made his debut with McLaren in 2007, to rivals Mercedes at the end of last season.
Hamilton was not the only notable absentee at Woking, although his title-winning MP4-23 car made a noisy entrance, with long-serving technical director Paddy Lowe playing no part in the launch after being linked with a move to Mercedes.
“One certainty is that Paddy will be a part of the team for another year,” said McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh.
”It is less certain, as has been speculated in the media, beyond that but it’s something I‘m sure we will have some certainty on in the near future.
“Clearly there is a lot of media interest and I think it’s good that Paddy concentrates on doing his job. I don’t think he wants to create any embarrassment to the team or any of his colleagues,” added Whitmarsh.
“So at his own election he felt it was inappropriate for him to be here,” he added.
Whitmarsh said McLaren had to be more consistent after failing to make the most of what was, at least at the start and end of last season, the quickest car on the grid.
“Clearly we can’t be satisfied with an outcome where we win quite a few races, are fast most of the time, but don’t actually win the championship,” he said.
Editing by Toby Davis