McLaren-Mercedes has begun putting the new MP4-20 through its paces in Barcelona and will run three examples of the 2005-spec car at the upcoming championship’s grands prix.

McLaren-Mercedes has begun putting the new MP4-20 through its paces in Barcelona. The Woking-based team will run three examples of the 2005-specification car at the upcoming championship’s grands prix - but only during the practice sessions that precede the main event, of course.

By virtue of finishing a lowly fifth in the constructor’s championship last year, the once dominant team will be allowed to run three cars in Friday practice sessions. The third-car rule was intended to help struggling F1 teams and young drivers, but McLaren boss Ron Dennis said: "It (the rule) is something that we will exploit to the maximum benefit of the team”.

"We have two excellent development drivers in Alexander Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa," Dennis said. "They are both very talented and both have renewed confidence in their abilities.

"At some appropriate stage, but not yet, we will decide which driver actually participates in (practice at) the initial races. We won't switch backwards and forwards. There will be an initial commitment, probably the first four races."

quoted Dennis as saying he was “surprised and comforted” that the rules had not been changed to prevent McLaren taking advantage of the situation but was not ruling out a late attempt before the Australian Grand Prix on March 6.

In theory, having the third car on race Fridays will confer even more of an advantage this year as rule changes mean engines now have to last for two races in a row and the same set of tyres for qualifying and the entire race.

McLaren is currently conducting an intensive five-day test with Kimi Raikkonen, Juan-Pablo Montoya and test drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Alex Wurz conducting evaluation work on the MP4-20 and MP4-19B.

"A lot of time, effort and work has been invested in the new car, with the engineers working more for us than ever before," Raikkonen said. "My first impression is a good one, however, the work for me and my driver colleagues starts only now."

As was the case with the other 2005-specification F1 that have been launched, the design of the MP4-20 is influenced by significant revisions to the technical regulations in four key areas of the sport: engine lifespan, limitations on tyre use, aerodynamics and race weekend format particularly for qualifying.

"The revisions created an interesting challenge for our design team under Adrian Newey, Mike Coughlan and Neil Oatley, and the result is a car that looks quite different from last year," said McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh. "Mercedes on the engine side has to cope with similar technical and timescale challenges."

The car is also the first to have been completely designed and produced in McLaren's state of the art Technology Centre, allowing the team to spend even more time in the wind tunnel to be able to optimise its aerodynamic capabilities.

"The aerodynamic modifications have led to the most visible differences on the car, to the design of the chassis, which has been exclusively developed in the McLaren Technology Centre," Whitmarsh said. "These include the raising of the front wing by 50mm, restricting the height of the diffuser to 125mm and bringing the rear wing package forward by 150mm.

"We have an intensive schedule to complete before the cars leave for Australia on February 23, which will see us test at Valencia, Jerez and Barcelona," he added. "By the second week in February at Jerez, we will have the second MP4-20 chassis ready, with the third due to come on line the following week."

Original article from Car