McLaren-Mercedes managing director Martin Whitmarsh says his team could unleash the new MP4-18 earlier than expected - and warns the F-2003 GA is not nearly as dominant as Ferrari believed it would be.

McLaren-Mercedes managing director Martin Whitmarsh says his team could unleash the new MP4-18 earlier than expected - and warns the F-2003 GA is not nearly as dominant as Ferrari believed it would be.

Whitmarsh’s comments are the latest salvo in what is turning out to be a psychological battle between the two major teams in F1 this season - McLaren and title-holders Ferrari. CARtoday.com reported last week that McLaren’s eagerly-awaited MP4-18 had been shown to the public for the first time at a Paul Ricard testing session - and there is much speculation over the date of its first appearance in a grand prix.

Team boss Ron Dennis originally said the new chassis would not make an appearance before Canada (June 15) and no later than the British Grand Prix (July 20). Since the MP4-18 hit the track in testing for the first time last week, it appears the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring (June 29) has been pencilled in for the début of the car.

"It's not in my mind a secret that we would like to introduce it there (Nürburgring)," Whitmarsh said at the weekend. "I think it's realistic and feasible, but it's early days yet,"

"We've just started to run the car. Inevitably there are some teething problems, technical issues to be resolved. So far the problems have been frustrating, but not serious - and we'll sort them out fairly quickly. There is a target to go racing at the European Grand Prix but we will manage the risk by making the decision nearer the date."

According to , there are two versions of the MP4-18 - an “X” and an “A” version - the latter having a different transmission system. "Everyone involved in it really believes in it at the moment," Whitmarsh said. "In terms of technical risk I think it's greater than I've ever seen incorporated in the last 15 McLaren cars."

"Everyone has squeezed their heads and put every thought and idea they could into this project. I don't think anyone doubts that the car will be quick. But I also think there's an intuitive buzz in the company when they look at how extreme the car is and how expensive it looks."

Ferrari's F2003-GA has won the last two races, but Whitmarsh is sceptical about the progress made by the Scuderia: "I think last year we made them (Ferrari) look better than they were in that Williams and McLaren underperformed," he said.

"They did a good, but not an extraordinary job, last year. They were beatable. They did do an extraordinary job on reliability. We've now got to put them under some pressure so they have to take more technical risk.

"But, encouragingly, whiletheir new car is clearly a very, very good car, it hasn't moved the game on significantly as far as we can see so far. Maybe in two races it's too early to say but it certainly doesn't appear to have been a big jump forward.

"We've got every expectation that we can make a step. We aim to give them a fight this year. Hopefully we can prevail. If we don't then we're going to be even stronger next year," he said.

Original article from Car