Jenson Button was third after his first day of running in the new McLaren, 0.657s slower than Michael Schumcher’s Mercedes.
But he revealed afterwards he had not done a competitive run using the super-soft tyres or Drag Reduction System (adjustable rear wing).
Speaking to journalists after his first run in the MP4-26 he said:
“This morning we were mostly just fitting me into the car and getting used to KERS because it’s new to me, as it is to most drivers.
“And it’s alright, I quite like the boost of power and the system’s been running really well. So it’s just been getting used to using it as a set-up tool and everything.
“So it was a positive morning getting used to that. I feel a lot more comfortable in the car now than I did this morning, played around with a few things in the cockpit just to make me feel properly comfortable and it’s all good now, we’ve made some good progress.”
One attempt to do a flying lap on super-softs had to be aborted due to Pastor Maldonado’s crash:
“I had a go, we were trying to do a back-to-back with them and neither of my runs were good – one was for a certain reason and the other one was because of Maldonado.
“I’d just started my quick lap on the tyre. And because the tyre is so soft, that’s it, it’s done. So we came in and went out again and it wasn’t a massively quick lap.”
According to Button the difference in performance with the Pirelli tyres is greater than it was with Bridgestone – which he thinks will be good for racing:
“We tried the different tyres which has been interesting. There are big difference from the hard to the medium, to the soft, to the super-soft.
“The difference is in terms of lap time but also in terms of durability and degradation. So it’s going to be fun for racing.
“I know that the soft is changing considerably but the other tyres are staying pretty much the same. I think what everyone wanted is tyres that are very different and there a pretty big gap between the different positions of tyres.
“The viewers will know and we all know the differences between the tyres and I think it’s good to see that on the circuit.”
He added: “I’ve heard that people are finding a second from soft to super-soft tyres, half a second between soft and medium, and half a second between medium and hard.
“There’s a lot of difference between the tyres and if you run one one day and you run it the next day you’ll see a big difference in pace and competitiveness. It’s very difficult to know – I haven’t got a clue where we are, really.”
He said he was happy with the progress the team made in his first day of running with the new car:
“It’s good to get to know the tyres. We’re going to do some set-up work, we haven’t done a lot of set-up work, it’s been mostly just getting to grips with certain things.
“We had a big change over lunch which took a long time, an hour and a half to two hours.
“It’s a good first day – we haven’t set the world alight but we’ve collected data and it’s been important to do that. On Sunday we can have a crack at seeing what the car has in it.”
He added: “The important thing is the basic balance of the car is reasonable and there’s something to build on.
“There’s nothing that stands out as ‘wow, that’s an area where we’re weak’. Its not weak.”
Button said McLaren’s experience with KERS has helped him get to grips with the technology, which he hasn’t used before:
“The team, obviously, are quite experienced in that area. I’m guessing I jumped into a car that had the system pretty well set up already.
“I think it’s a very useful tool. I had no issues at all on the braking. Maybe we were a little bit conservative with it. I did a lot of laps in the simulator with it so I’m used to pushing buttons to use the KERS.
“It was fine, I felt very at home with it. There were no issues at all and hopefully it will continue that way.”
Button did some preliminary trials of the Drag Reduction System, but so far has only tested it to make sure it works properly:
“I also tried the rear wing a couple of times – not in anger, just making sure it’s working. It’s just like pushing the KERS button, it’s amazing the boost you get from it.
“I sat behind the Renault on the main straight and he was adjusting it and I didn’t realise how quickly it was going to move from stalled to getting it back.
“It’s an amazing bit of kit. It’s comedy watching someone using it thought because it just looks wrong, the rear wing moving. It looks like something has fallen off. It’s going to take a bit to get used to it and stop laughing.
“It is quite busy in the cockpit, first day in a new car. We’ll get used it pretty quick. The buttons won’t be an issue with the KERS and the rear wing.
“The KERS I feel I’m very at home with already. I’m sure the rear wing’s going to take a little bit longer to use it correctly.
“It’s like pushing the KERS button. It’s very efficient, it’s amazing the speed you pick up.
“I never used it on a timed lap, we only used it on in-laps to just get a feel for it and make sure everything is working correctly. It’s oner of those things you want to take a bit of time with before you actually use it in anger.
“I’m pushing the button just to see if it’s adjusting. I’ve got the mirrors set up also on the rear wing so I can see what’s happening, making sure it’s re-attaching. I was quite surprised how quickly it reacts to the button which is good.”
Button was asked about his thoughts on whether drivers’ activities outside of F1 should be restricted following Robert Kubica’s crash:
“It’s tricky. On one side of us we love racing, we’re very competitive, we love adrenaline. Obviously there are always going to be limits on the activities we can do outside of the car.
“For a lot of people that limit wouldn’t be an issue because they’re not adrenaline junkies, they don’t love to do other crazy stuff. But we do.
“For Mark [Webber] it was part of his training and it was a very unlucky incident.
“And you have to say the same for Robert. It’s something completely different to Mark’s incident but an horrific incident and you would never expect that sort of thing to happen.
“Robert obviously loves rallying – it’s something that’s close to his heart and it’s difficult to stop a driver from doing that.
“But what are you going to do – wrap us up in cotton wool when we’re not driving Formula 1 cars? It’s tricky. There’s a definite balance that is very difficult to get.”
He said that he had not been prevented from taking part in activities he was interested in – and joked that his triathlons were a welcome distraction from facing the press at F1 meetings:
“No I’m pretty happy. I do triathlons which is not dangerous. It’s a lot of fun and it’s something I enjoy when I’m out of the car.
“I think you need something sometimes to take your mind away from racing – and this!”
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