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This year is McLaren’s 50th birthday. Over the years its roster of driving royalty has included Hunt, Senna, Prost, Lauda, Coulthard, Raikkonen, Alonso, Hakkinen, Hamilton, and Button. This will not have gone unnoticed by new boy Sergio Perez. Fresh from his rookie seasons in F1 with Sauber, the 23-year old Mexican was at his new team’s HQ today - alongside some old-timer called Jenson - to pull the bedsheet off their new wheels: the MP4-28.

With the rules largely unchanged from 2012, there are no dramatic visual differences. “It’s the same colour as last year, but under the skin this is so, so different,” Jenson told us. “The regs haven’t changed much, but enough to make a difference.” The tech guys were talking of brave new designs around the suspension and exhaust, but F1 is a furtive world so we’ll have to take their word for now. We’ll know more once the testing starts in Jerez next week.

We do know that the biggest difference this year is rubber. “The tyres are less conservative this year - they will degrade faster,” says McLaren team boss, Martin Whitmarsh. “But it’s good for the sport, and we have two drivers with reputations for preserving tyres.” Jenson agrees. “We’ll have more pitstops,” he says. “And it’ll work better for my style of driving - as will the MP4-28”. Should work well for Perez, too, if his smooth style at Sauber is anything to go by.

This means the team should have an easier job of developing the cars. We know Lewis and Jenson had different styles. And however matey they appeared, you always sensed a little friction in the backslaps. And in the tweets… So are things different now? “We imagine we’ll be able to develop the car in harmony,” says Whitmarsh. “We have two very quick, focused drivers - it will be difficult for either to get the upper hand. But I would advise Sergio to learn from Jenson…”

This, then, feels very much like Jenson’s team. He even has a nicer company car. While Perez arrived at today’s launch in a 12C, Button cruised through the doors in the upcoming P1 hypercar, still disguised by swirly camouflage, but definitely the real deal. What did he think? “Well, I drove it around the lake,” he told us. “The livery is good, eh? Did you know it’s racing circuits? I’d definitely like more involvement in it. But sometimes you need a bit of youth… so I’ll give it to Sergio…”

Not giving much away then. So how about this? While the P1 made all sorts of nice rumbly noises on the way in, it glided out with a space-ship whir. For a while now, we’ve been speculating that it’ll be a petrol-electric hybrid with some sort of battery and KERS system. And it looks like we were right…

Dan Read

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