McLaren-Mercedes has quashed rumours that the Adrian Newey-designed MP4-18A could make a surprise début at this weekend’s European Grand Prix. Can Ron Dennis’ team afford to delay the launch?

McLaren-Mercedes has quashed rumours that the Adrian Newey-designed MP4-18A could make a surprise début at this weekend’s European Grand Prix. Can Ron Dennis’ team afford to delay the launch?

If sources are to be believed, the new car will not be raced at the European- or French Grands Prix (July 6), but at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 20.

The test programme for the new car suffered a major setback last week when Austrian test driver Alexander Wurz suffered a huge crash, which meant the team's efforts were focused on the sole remaining chassis.

Although the new car appears to be quicker than the current MP4-17D, its reliability is not sufficient to merit a launch at the Nurburgring.

"It is imperative that we do not jeopardise our campaign by introducing a car which has not been developed sufficiently to achieve the requisite level of reliability," said a McLaren spokesman.

"The logistical challenges of the two back-to-back races at the Nurburgring and Magny-Cours do not support an introduction of the new car during these races. We will therefore only introduce the new car once we are confident that it will enhance our championship programme."

Kimi Raikkonen also suffered a big crash in the new car at Barcelona three weeks ago. Due to the double-header races in Germany and at the French Grand Prix, the next chance McLaren will get to test the MP4-18A will be at Barcelona the week after the Magny-Cours race.

Despite the fact that David Coulthard suffered a mechanical failure and Kimi Raikkonen finished behind both Ferraris and Williams-BMWs at the recent Canadian Grand Prix, McLaren team boss Ron Dennis maintains that the MP4-17D will be competitive in upcoming races.

But will McLaren be forced to introduce the MP4-18 at Magny-Cours if Coulthard and Raikkonen again fail to make an impression this weekend?