Jenson Button says two-stop strategy was only option for McLaren in Chinese GP
Briton admits MP4-28 wasn't fast enough for straight speed fight
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 14/04/13 2:33pm
Having effectively written off Q3 on Saturday in order to start on the more durable medium tyres for the race, Button actually found himself in the lead of the 56-lap event on more than one occasion as the faster three-stopping cars ahead of him peeled off into the pits.
A particularly long second stint on the prime tyres meant he was able to complete just a seven-lap final stint on the initially faster, but far more brittle, soft compound and he then passed the Ferrari of Felipe Massa to claim McLaren's best result of the season so far.
But, reflecting on the race as a whole having had to yield to faster cars on numerous occasions during his elongated stints, Button admitted the race was a slightly strange experience.
"It's really tough because in a way it's a little bit like Le Mans when you're in a LMP2 car and LMP1 car are coming up behind you," he told Sky Sports F1.
"The cars were so much quicker than me and there's no point racing because it would have destroyed our strategy. One lock-up, one trip over the marbles and the tyres would have been gone and our strategy wouldn't have worked and it was a very, very tight strategy.
"So we had to be clever, we had to be intelligent and I think as a team we did that. It's so difficult, I was radioing in saying 'can I fight them?'. They'd come back and say 'yes, you've got to fight, fight' but then ten seconds later 'no, you've got to look after the tyres and get to our target lap'."
But while pleased they were able to make the bold tyre strategy work, Button conceded McLaren still couldn't hide from the fact they were some distance behind their traditional rivals for outright speed.
"A tricky race but we should be very happy with what we did - P5, ten points - we wouldn't have done that if we'd done the same strategy as everyone else, we're not quick enough," he added.
"So we take away positives but we know we've now quick enough and we need to improve."
Team-mate Sergio Perez, meanwhile, endured a trying afternoon and finished one place outside the points in 11th place.
The Mexican employed the same strategy as Button but finished the best part of half a minute behind the sister car and afterwards hinted at underlying problems with his MP4-28.
"Very disappointed," was Perez's blunt assessment of his emotions.
"It's been a very difficult race. [I was] lacking so much pace and I think there is a lot to be analysed for us and to be learned because it's been the worst weekend for us in terms of pace."