McLaren will follow Ferrari's lead and introduce their new car 'within the next month' despite their successful start to the Formula One season. The English-based team delayed the introduction of their 2003 car until the series returned to Europe, instead preferring to use a modified version of last year's machine.

That decision has paid dividends with both Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard winning a race apiece from the first three grands prix and the Finn taking the lead in the drivers' championship. McLaren will once again use the modified MP4-17D car at this weekend's San Marino Grand Prix but expect to reveal its successor - the MP4-18 - in either Spain or Austria next month.

Managing director Martin Whitmarsh said: "We are fully aware of, and are in no way underestimating, the substantial challenge we will face over the 13 races that remain, and therefore it is too early to be thinking about the world championships. However, the results to date have provided a solid base to build on through the rest of the year and an ideal circumstance in which to commence the European season."

He continued: "The strong showing of the MP4-17D is also allowing us the flexibility to fully optimise the performance of the MP4-18 before it is introduced. As previously indicated, we will only race the MP4-18 when it's faster and at least as reliable as the MP4-17D. As a result, at this time we are not in the position to provide an exact date, it will however be within the next month."

Ferrari - who have suffered contrasting fortunes with a disastrous start to the season with their 2002 car - had intended to debut their new machine at Imola this weekend but will now introduce it two weeks later in Spain.

Filed by Shane Murray