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McLaren hope to reduce gap to Ferrari

The McLaren-Mercedes team are hoping to close the gap on rivals Ferrari at next week's Malaysian Grand Prix following the Italian squad's dominant display in Australia.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen dominated the Melbourne race from start to finish to kick off the season in perfect fashion.

The Finn finished ahead of McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, who were unable to match the pace of their Ferrari rival.

But after a week of testing at Sepang, McLaren's F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh is hopeful the British squad will be closer to Ferrari in the Asian race.

"Sepang is a demanding circuit, where we under-performed last year," said Whitmarsh. "I believe that going into the race this season we have a package that will be competitive and we go with the desire to win.

"We certainly came away from the first race knowing we have a performance deficit to Ferrari, especially on long runs, and our expectations are to be closer to Ferrari on this circuit."

McLaren enjoyed a productive test in Malaysia this week, making progress with the development of their car, and Whitmarsh hopes they have taken a bigger step forward than their rivals.

"We have a car that has been reasonably reliable and it has also demonstrated efficient cooling capacity, so fortunately the test this week has not had to focus significantly on those issues," he added.

"The areas that we have been looking at have been long run protection of performance as well as general performance uplift. We have had a lot of interesting new components on the car and it was a productive test.

"But all the other teams are also working hard and improving. During a test, everyone runs with different fuel loads so you can't read anything from the final times, but next Saturday in Malaysia we will know whether we've been able to improve at a faster rate than our competitors."

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