Just as Brawn's sterling test pace is surprising, so too is the apparent struggle of reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton's employer McLaren.

Just as Brawn's sterling test pace is surprising, so too is the apparent struggle of reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton's employer McLaren.

Pre-season testing is often an unreliable guide to championship form, but former McLaren driver Fernando Alonso observed at Barcelona this week: "They have been testing with both drivers and have not done very well."

Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who lost the 2008 title fight against Hamilton by a single point, admitted surprise that the works Mercedes-powered team is regularly occupying the bottom places on the timesheets.

Unofficial word from the Woking based team at the end of the test is that the car's problem has been identified and can be fixed in the run to Melbourne.

"They still can improve and they have another test that we don't have so they can find what is wrong, what is not working," Massa said.

"For sure it is surprising to see McLaren behind but we need to respect and wait for the first race of the season to have a clear idea about that," he added.

McLaren group chairman Ron Dennis this week put a brave face on the MP4-24's problems, but Mercedes' competition boss Norbert Haug is less guarded.

"We are far too slow at the moment but are going to work hard to get back to the front," he said in interview with Germany's Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

 

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