Date: 25th March 2011 at 12:17pm
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McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh predicted it and drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton proved it. McLaren are back in contention.

From missing the first winter test session, to lacking reliability and pace, to topping the timing sheets for the second practice session in Australia, the new 2011 car has certainly made a rapid improvement over the last couple of weeks and that’s without any on track testing time.

The difference? A new upgrade package which includes a re-design of the car?s floor and exhaust system.

The new exhaust has definitely brought performance to the car – it feels much better, makes the handling more ?complete?. When you have downforce at the rear, you can also add it at the front, and then you put temperature in the tyres – there?s so much that comes with downforce. Jenson Button told after the second practice session.

I?m so happy with how hard the guys have worked and what they?ve brought to this race – they?ve worked really hard and they?ve delivered something good here. We don?t yet know how good, but we?re encouraged by the step we?ve made today.?

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton was just as delighted as the moves forward the car has made since the final testing session in Barcelona earlier this month.

?The car feels like an improvement over winter testing, but I?m not reading too much into the others? performance. We just spent the day focusing on our own programme. The tyres are behaving very well; they don?t feel like they?re degrading, and they?re lasting well, too. Hopefully we can pick up some points this weekend – I feel positive.’ Hamilton said.

Whether the improvements are enough to put McLaren in contention for the race win, we will have to wait and see, but the one thing that is certain, McLaren are no longer being left way behind.