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McLaren show off new car with no principal in sight

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - McLaren showed off their new Formula One car on Friday with neither a title sponsor nor a team principal in sight but plenty of determination to banish the gloom of a depressing 2013 season.

Once famed for lavish launches, McLaren opted for an online only presentation of the silver MP4-29 with a series of photographs immediately drawing attention to the car's protruding nose and 'nostrils'.

Other teams had already warned that new safety-led regulations would lead to 'ugly' noses and an "anteater look" and McLaren's offering was certainly a departure from the sleek offerings of the recent past.

"This year will be about developing and growing McLaren to a position where we can once again fight at the front," declared managing director Jonathan Neale in a press release.

"We've made no secret of our disappointment at how the 2013 season turned out," added sporting director Sam Michael, whose team failed to finish on the podium last year for the first time since 1980 and ended up fifth overall.

"The aim now is to get back to winning.

"But there's a certain amount of growth and regrowth that needs to take place before we return to a position where we can challenge for the world championship."

There was no mention of Martin Whitmarsh, still nominally the team principal despite losing the role of group chief executive to his predecessor Ron Dennis last week.

Media speculation about Whitmarsh's future intensified shortly before the launch when Lotus announced Eric Boullier had been replaced as that team's principal, with the Frenchman tipped for a role at McLaren.

McLaren had already warned there would be no announcement on Friday about who would be replacing departed mobile giant Vodafone as title sponsor.

REAL CAR

Instead, in the team's last season with Mercedes before switching to Honda engines, the silver car was presented with minimal branding and the MP4-29 designation prominent on front, side and back.

McLaren were the first to unveil a real car, even online, after Force India and Williams released computer-generated images.

Michael said the future was bright, with a new driver in Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen - replacing Mexican Sergio Perez - alongside 2009 champion Jenson Button, and key technical signings from rival teams.

"For 2014 our aim is for continuous development," he said. "We'll be refining and strengthening the car and the organization throughout the year, so you'll see a rapid turnover of parts and ideas on the car as we, like every team, wrestle with the many unique challenges of the regulations."

Formula One has a new turbocharged V6 engine with energy recovery systems this year, replacing the old V8s, and teams will try out their 2014 cars for the first time at Jerez in southern Spain next week.

McLaren endured a nightmare in testing last year but Michael hoped for a smoother winter this time.

"It'll be a season of complexity and subtlety," he said. "We won't find ourselves in the situation where the guy who wins the first race goes on to win the championship. I think it'll be unpredictable and exciting.

"There'll be a lot of cross-pollination of ideas during the season as the best concepts and solutions proliferate. We're proud of some of the concepts we'll be introducing with this car but, likewise, there'll be areas where we can learn and improve."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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