Jenson Button, whose face is normally covered in designer stubble, walked through Shanghai’s paddock gates unusually clean-shaven.
It is surely to mark McLaren’s new sponsor deal with Gillette, the razor giant.
But the 2009 world champion would prefer to shave tenths off the team’s struggling MP4-28 car, which has already been outscored not only by usual rivals Red Bull, Lotus, Ferrari and Mercedes in 2013, but also Force India and Sauber.
Button said in China that McLaren was caught out by its rivals’ decisions to carefully evolve their 2013 cars, rather than emulate the Woking-based team’s radical approach.
“I think the one thing that surprised us is that nobody else has gone our route,” he said. “We were the only team to do that.”
It’s arguably an even tougher situation for team newcomer Sergio Perez, who thought he was joining the great McLaren only to find the giant in crisis.
The Mexican told EFE news agency: “No matter what the team is or what it has achieved before, there is always pressure to get the results. There’s always pressure when you drive for McLaren.”