Paul Horrell 18 March 2010

Champion's drive: F1 stars on track in new McLaren

F1 champs Jenson and Lewis track-test the new McLaren MP4-12C supercar. We want a go...

This is insanely, unbelievably frustrating.

Today the world’s media, and via webcast the whole world, were invited down to McLaren’s astonishing headquarters. It’s where the formula one cars are created, and the new MP4-12C road car too. It’s also where the first batch of the road cars will be built before production ramps up and transfers to a bigger factory that’s being built right next door.

See images of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-12C

We were shown the car. But we’ve been shown it before.

Some headline technical info was released. But very little they haven’t told us before.

Ron Dennis talked about the car, but again he’s said the substance before. And then we were shown this.

Two people who actually got to drive the car. They clearly gave it a right seeing-to.

Then they took the floor, and told us some more. Jenson says it feels like a track car: ‘Most road cars feel like road cars when they’re on the track. This one has so much grip you have to keep telling yourself it’s a road car.’

Lewis ‘It’s soft in a straight line but firms up in corners.’ (That’ll be the adaptive damping, and the special active anti-roll system.) ‘It handles like a car should handle. And you get the same click when you change gear as you do in a formula one car.’

He noted his team-mate’s press-on style too. ‘We weren’t supposed to be going flat-out but I saw him and said “Don’t break it.”’

To which Jenson shrugged, ‘She’s strong.’

But that’s the aching frustration. They are racing drivers of near-limitless capability. And they’re employed by the company itself, so they’re hardly unbiased. No-one outside that charmed circle has had a go yet. And it’ll be most of the rest of this year before they do.

Jenson and Lewis like it. Everyone in the company seems confident. The engineers and testers have driven the SLS and the 458 Italia and they’re still confident that they’ve built the best supercar of its kind.

We just wish, oh how we wish, we didn’t have to take their word for it.

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