2011 F1 testing
Jenson Button says he does not expect McLaren to be able to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari from the first race of the new season.
Speaking to journalists following today’s test at the Circuit de Catalunya he said: “I don’t think we are as quick as the Red Bulls and I don’t know about Ferrari.
“The car felt relatively good and it would have been nice to have had more time to change the set-up. I feel a lot more at home in the car at this test.
“We worked a little on longer runs this afternoon with high fuel, which we have made progress on. It’s a pity I only have one more day in the car, I would have liked more, but that’s all I’ve got so I’ll have to make the most of it.”
“I will be surprised if we can match the Red Bull or Ferrari when we get to Melbourne, that’s a big ask considering the mileage we’ve had compared to them and the pace from the last test. It’s going to be tricky but never say never.
“I’m quite impressed with the steps forward we have made. With more work on the set-up this week we’ll see how close we can get to them.”
He added: “There’s still work needed to be as quick as a Red Bull or a Ferrari and one or two teams but we are moving forward so that’s a good feeling. The guys have done a great job working on the cars performance and reliability.
“This is only the first day of a four day test, we hope for a lot more mileage tomorrow. The laps I actually spent on the circuit today on low and high fuel, were quite good improvements after what I experienced at the last test. It’s not perfect and it’s not ready for the first race but we have to be happy with the progress made.”
Given their form in testing so far Button said it wouldn’t be bad if their car was only the third-quickest to begin with: “You’re not going to be happy being the third fastest team.
“However, I don’t think it would be that bad to third quickest team at the start of the season as you can do a lot from that position. Considering last few tests, we would be relatively happy if we were third fastest team.
“There are no guarantees we are. I haven’t got a clue who is up there, you can obviously say Ferrari and Red Bull are very consistent. There have been many other cars setting quick times on different days so if you can be up in third position, that’s a good thing at the moment.
“Getting points at the early stage of the year is so important, you can gain a haul of points whilst others around you are struggling to figure out where they are.”
Button played down suggestions the team were having more difficulty than others in making their tyres last: “I don’t think we have worse tyre wear than others. I think even those cars who appear to have more downforce than us are still having degradation with their tyres, as that’s the way the tyres are designed. I think everybody is struggling with degradation, it’s an area I think we are all working on to make the best of what we have.
“It’s going to be very important when we get to Melbourne, it’s a F1 car and you want to push it as hard as you can. Sometimes it feels you can do that and suddenly you don’t have the grip any more. It’s a difficult situation and I think those drivers who understand the tyre well will perform well at the first race.”
Button said the team ran their new exhaust today but may not use it throughout the rest of the test.
He also explained the unusual bulge on the car’s nose seen briefly during today’s test: “Did you like the nose? I actually quite like it. It was quite fast so I might ask to keep it.
“Our nose is quite low compared to a lot of cars, we can see fine. You can see the car moving a lot which is quite strange to see.
“It’s a device that’s checking out certain things on the car, I don’t think it’s anything we’ll be racing. We should have said it’s a new part really, I even went quicker with it!”
Quotes and additional reporting by Leandra Graves
2011 F1 testing
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Image © Pirelli