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McLaren drivers: 'We can't compete'

updated 9:14 AM EDT, Thu March 21, 2013
British driver Jenson Button won the world championship in 2009 before joining McLaren in 2010.
British driver Jenson Button won the world championship in 2009 before joining McLaren in 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jenson Button and Sergio Perez say McLaren will not compete in Malaysia
  • Button finished ninth at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix
  • Lewis Hamilton confident Mercedes can challenge Red Bull in 2013
  • Kimi Raikkonen plays down suggestions he's the man to beat at Sepang

(CNN) -- With 182 Formula One wins, McLaren is one of the most successful marques in the history of the sport, but F1's second oldest team could be waiting some time for the next victory.

So much so, that after the team's stuttering start to the new F1 season last weekend, McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez have already ruled themselves out of winning Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

The 2009 world champion Button won three races last season and after Lewis Hamilton left McLaren to join Mercedes he must have been relishing the chance to launch a title challenge as the team's No. 1 driver.

However the Briton, who finished ninth at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, is expecting another frustrating weekend in Kuala Lumpur.

"Australia was obviously a tough weekend and, despite getting the maximum out of the car, it's still clearly not where we want to be," Button told the sport's official website.

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"There's a lot of work to be done but we all know that this team won't stop working until they get it right. For this weekend, I don't think we can expect an improvement in our fortunes, but the thing about Malaysia is that it can be so unpredictable."

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Like all Englishmen, Button is closely watching the weather forecast in the hope that McLaren might profit from what could be a wet race at the Sepang International Circuit to even up the odds for the British team.

"We saw that last year, when Fernando (Alonso) won, and we know that the unpredictable weather can make it a lottery for everyone," added Button.

"That's something that could play into our hands -- I do enjoy driving in changeable conditions, and would love the challenge of being able to run competitively in a car that we all know is not quite capable of challenging for victories yet."

Perez, who made his debut for McLaren last weekend after joining the British marque from Sauber, delivered an equally sombre assessment of the team's problems.

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"Last weekend's race was a difficult one for everybody on the team, but it's shown us exactly what we need to do to close down the gap to the leaders," said the 23-year-old Mexican, who finished second in Malaysia last season,

"This weekend in Malaysia will be about trying to maximise the package we have while knowing that it's not going to be enough to allow us to fight for overall victory.

"Sepang holds many happy memories -- I had one of the best races of my career there last year where I was able to push Alonso for victory until the closing laps.

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"It's a fantastic circuit, really fast and demanding. It would be great to pull off another unexpected result for the team this year."

Mercedes optimism

Former McLaren driver Hamilton enjoyed a solid first race for Mercedes last weekend, finishing fifth after starting the race third on the grid, and the 2008 world champion has been pleasantly buoyed by his team's performance in Melbourne.

"I feel very optimistic," Hamilton was reported to have said by AFP.

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"I came away from there with 10 points and I feel really happy with 10 points because when I made the switch I didn't know where we'd be, and I definitely didn't think we'd come away from the first race with 10 points."

Hamilton is confident he can match the pace of Red Bull's triple world champion Sebastian Vettel.

"I don't think they (Red Bull) had frightening pace in qualifying," continued the 28-year-old Briton.

"I think if I was out at the same time, if I was out as late as they had gone out, I think I could have matched their time.

"But then we got to the race and they had great pace again, as they always do and he (Vettel) disappeared, along with everyone else. Hopefully in the next race we won't have that problem."

Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen is the top of the drivers' rankings following the first race after the 2007 world champion took the checkered flag at Albert Park in Melbourne.

But the Finn denied suggestions he will be the man everyone is looking to beat in Sunday's race.

"There's no target (on my back)," said the 32-year-old. "We're not doing any different things this week from what we did previously.

"So whether people think we are the leaders makes no difference to how we work, what we're going to do this weekend or any other weekend. We'll try to do our best and hopefully we can score some good points."

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