Jenson Button feels he could have finished on the podium without a botched pitstop
McLaren released driver without wheel attached
By William Esler
Last Updated: 24/03/13 1:48pm
The 2009 World Champion was given the green light to leave pits during his third stop before his front right wheel was attached.
The 33-year-old's car ground to a halt by the Sauber garage and the time lost waiting to be pushed back by the McLaren mechanics dropped him out of the points.
Button retired with three laps to go to ensure he can take a new gearbox in China without penalty, but feels that without the pit mistake he could have challenged both Mercedes cars for third place.
"It's easy for me to say we would have been on the podium as we didn't finish and I am sure a lot of people will disagree with me, but I think we had a chance to fight with the Mercedes," Jenson told Sky Sports F1.
"We had one less pitstop to do, but I don't know what would have happened, but I think at worst it would have been fifth. We could have pushed the Mercedes and they were fighting between themselves so it could have been interesting.
"But it is a good improvement over the last race just a week ago. We never thought we would be fighting for fifth, let alone a little bit better, so there are positives, but it is always very tough when you have an issue like this as it is a lot of points thrown away - even fifth is ten points. So that is tough, but the positives are that we are improving and I can see that we will be even more competitive in China."
The pace shown by Button was a dramatic improvement on the Australian Grand Prix just seven days ago, and whilst the 2009 World Champion feels they will continue to progress in China, he is not expecting as a big a step in performance.
"We made some good improvements," he added.
"This circuit helped us a bit as it is smoother than Albert Park, but in general we have been trying things and trying to understand the way the aero is working and I think we have a much better understanding now.
"We are getting there - we won't have such a big step forward in China as we did from the last race to this race, but every little bit will count. We had a chance of finishing very high here today and hopefully we can do that again in China."