Analysis: McLaren Wait for June, Ferrari Turn Corner

Formula One Championship leaders McLaren expect to have to wait until at least June to see their new car race for the first time.

Analysis: McLaren Wait for June, Ferrari Turn Corner

Formula One Championship leaders McLaren expect to have to wait until at least June to see their new car race for the first time.

While Ferrari gave their old F2002 a poignant sendoff at Imola on Sunday, with World Champion Michael Schumacher taking his first win of the year on the day his mother died, McLaren's new car is still miles away.

"We will race it when we feel that it is as reliable as our existing car," said team boss Ron Dennis when asked about the due date. "I'd say no sooner than Canada, no later than Silverstone."

The Canadian Grand Prix is on June 15 while the British race is not until July 20.

"It certainly won't be before Canada," said technical director Adrian Newey. "We hope to be testing it in the not too distant future but then you've obviously got to allow yourself de-bugging time and you've got to be confident in its reliability before racing it."

Lingering Doubts

Ferrari sounded confident that next week's Spanish Grand Prix would see the race debut of the F2003-GA, first unveiled in February but so far withheld.

"The circumstances were difficult this weekend but today's result has been a tremendous boost to the team and will give us renewed confidence," said Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn after the team's home win.

Sunday's race marked a turning point, the first in Europe this year and probably the last for the F2002 before the new car raises Ferrari's game to a new level.

"The F2003-GA is definitely better potential but we were not happy enough on reliability to decide to enter it in this Grand Prix," said Ferrari boss Jean Todt. "We are going to do a lot of testing in Mugello mainly with the F2003-GA.

"We are not far from what we want to achieve in terms of reliability and we will be in a position to see exactly where we are at the end of the week. We are quite confident the car will be ready for the Spanish Grand Prix."

Rivals are bracing themselves, although McLaren's David Coulthard saw a light of hope in the delay so far in introducing the car and paddock speculation.

"Of course you're concerned. If they bring out a new car you've got to believe it's because they think it's quicker and that's not good news," he said.

"You hear rumours of it being significantly lighter than previous cars, a lot of ballast in the floor and quite fragile which is why (test driver Luca) Badoer has had a few shunts," added Coulthard. "Ultimately only Ferrari can confirm or deny that."

McLaren have done well this season against the F2002, a car beaten only once in 15 races last year. The Mercedes-powered team have 51 points to Ferrari's 32 while Finland's Kimi Raikkonen has so far finished every race on the podium and leads Coulthard in the Championship with 32 points to the Scot's 19. Schumacher has 18.

"We have reason to be optimistic," said Coulthard. "But if you had to pick your weapons to go into the next battle you'd be hard pushed to bet against Ferrari having a quick single lap car.

"We're reasonably optimistic (about Barcelona). We definitely think we have a chance of racing for the podium and with a good strategy, getting a win."

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