McLaren aiming to close gap
McLaren are hopeful the upgrades they are bringing to this weekend's race in Malaysia represent the first stage of an "aggressive" development push they are initiating to try and catch Mercedes.
It has taken the former World Champions just one race to better their best result from their dismal 2013 campaign after Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button finished second and third respectively in Melbourne following Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification from the runner-up position.
Despite Mercedes' Nico Rosberg winning the season-opener by half a minute, McLaren's 33-point haul has given them an early lead over their Brackley rival in the Constructors' Championship - the first time they have topped the standings for two years.
The team, however, are aware there is a big performance gap to close with Racing Director Eric Boullier stressing that they are aiming to bring upgrade packages to the MP4-29 as quickly as possible - starting at Sepang.
"The fact that we are leading the Constructors' Championship is a testament to the underlying strength and hunger of the organisation: in Melbourne, we didn't have the strongest car, but we were able to manage the race superbly: we executed perfect strategies on both cars, Jenson and Kevin each drove faultlessly, and our engineers and mechanics made sure our cars operated with only minimal problems across the whole weekend," Boullier said.
"The aim for Malaysia will be to consolidate the position we currently have: we need to close the gap to the front, and we'll be pushing aggressively on the development front to ensure that the upgrades we bring to this race do just that. But speed counts for nothing without reliability, and our focus will be to ensure we stay on top of things to ensure we operate both cars across the weekend without any problems.
"Equally, back at MTC, we're pushing hard to ensure that the supply chain from factory to track is further refined: ours is a battle of constant development; and while we've seen one team emerge at the front, it'll be the constant, iterative developments that will upset the order.
"We've got some productive programmes in the windtunnel, and our aim now is to turn these projects to reality as soon as we possibly can - this is where the championship fight will be won or lost."
Button, who claimed his maiden F1 podium finish at Sepang exactly ten years ago and won the truncated rain-lashed 2009 race, believes that Melbourne proved McLaren are back on the up and echoed Boullier's belief that they now must keep pushing the development envelope.
"Australia was a really motivational race for the entire team - even though we still have work to do, it feels like we've turned a corner, and that we have a racecar we can definitely work with this year," Button declared.
"It's important that we keep pushing hard on the development front - we brought some useful upgrades to Melbourne, and it was encouraging that they worked straight out of the box, but it's essential that we keep pushing new items through the development pipeline, especially at these flyaway races, where it's harder to bring new parts to the circuit."