The reigning Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will head into the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in just 16 days' time with a car that is not quick enough. That is the verdict from McLaren who have revealed for the first time they are struggling for pace following two poor performances in testing recently at Jerez and Barcelona. The Woking-based team have one final four-day test session to come at Jerez next week, but even then, the team principal Martin Whitmarsh is not expecting all the problems to be solved ahead of the trip to Melbourne. "Initial testing of the car, which first ran with an interim aero package, went in accordance with early developmental expectations," said Whitmarsh. "This week the car ran in Barcelona with an updated aero package, as we had always planned it would, and a performance shortfall has been identified that we are now working hard to resolve. "At the moment the car isn't fast enough, and certainly not by our team's extremely high standards. "But Lewis is the world champion, and he became world champion in one of our cars. "So anything less than success at that level is naturally regarded as unsatisfactory by us, by our partners, by the media and by the fans. "But the problems are fixable. Many times in Formula One history have successful teams started off with a car that was not working as well as they had hoped it would. "And many times have those successful teams engineered their way back to the front of the grid in impressively short order. "That is what we aim to do. In fact, that is what we are already doing." But not all the car's ills will be cured in time for Australia, with Whitmarsh adding: "Next week we will be testing at Jerez, which many of our rivals will not be. "We aim to continue to develop the car, and the result should be measurable on the stopwatch. "Will the car be as quick as we want it to be by March 29? Perhaps not. "Will it be quicker than it has been this week at the Barcelona test? Yes. "Will it improve as we develop its aero and thereby address its problems in the coming weeks and months? Most certainly." A ban on in-season testing for this year will undoubtedly hinder McLaren's cause, which means Hamilton will be playing catch up even if the team do get to the root of their problems. Underlining Whitmarsh's remarks, Mercedes-Benz's motorsport boss Norbert Haug said: "We are definitely not where we want to be. "For the time being we are not quick enough. We still have a lot of work ahead of us to improve the technical package. "We will continue our test programme next week at Jerez for another four days, but it will take time to improve. "Obviously, there is a lack of downforce and we are working hard to solve this problem and improve. However, it might take us a few races to significantly improve. "Basically, the car feels good ? that is what our drivers say, but we are currently definitely not fast enough, not competitive enough to aim for victories. "But we've fixed problems together in the past and we will succeed in doing it again. Expect us to fight back even if it takes some time. "If we were not capable of building competitive Formula One cars, we would not have won one third of all grands prix during the past four years." * PA Sport
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