Just a few months ago, McLaren Mercedes fielded a fast and reliable Formula One car that won the title for Lewis Hamilton.
But the 2009 McLaren has appeared uncompetitive in pre-season testing - in real terms around 1.8secs slower per lap than the pace-setting headline-making surprise packet, the Brawn (nee Honda F1) BGP 001 rocket.
With the 2009 world championship looming large, every driver, designer and engineer in Formula One has been sweating the impact of new technical regulations on the 20 cars on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix.
Heikki Kovalainen is no exception. He admits the two McLaren Mercedes cars are not quick enough.
While Hamilton admits he'll struggle to get into the points on Sunday, Kovalainen says he can't concern himself with the others and that he and the team are instead concentrating on doing their best to crank more speed from the McLaren Mercedes.
The (northern) winter testing has been a notoriously unreliable guide to real form for decades. There was a time - before Michael Schumacher's dominance - when Ferrari would shine on the test tracks and then perform poorly when the racing began
Some rival team bosses have had the temerity to suggest that McLaren is sandbagging - deliberately running slowly, and F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone is of the same view.
We'll be wiser on Sunday evening.
McLaren is insisting it has some catching up to do.
Kovalainen signing autographs at the AGP
"All we can do is focus on the job and improve out performance as a team," Kovalainen said. He didn't sound like a man expecting to spray the champagne on Sunday evening. But he also said he knew the team would soon get back on the pace. McLaren is like that. He is reassured by history.
"Our performance was not what we were hoping for during testing. But I have no doubt we will be back on top. We are a winning team.
"Expectations are always very high that McLaren will be successful. We will recover from this situation."
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