Jenson Button: McLaren '10 times better' in Barcelona than at tests
JB hails "promising" day as upgraded MP4-30 finishes seventh
By James Galloway in Barcelona
Last Updated: 12/05/15 2:02pm
Jenson Button declared that McLaren’s 2015 car felt “10 times better” around the Circuit de Catalunya in Friday practice than was the case in winter testing, after a “promising” opening day for the team at the Spanish GP.
Armed with upgrades to the MP4-30 chassis as well as changes to the Honda engine, McLaren showed little improvement on the timesheet in Practice One before a more eye-catching performance in the second session saw Button finish in seventh place.
“I was surprised by the McLaren’s pace in qualy trim and it was maybe higher than even we expected them to be," commented Sky Sports F1's Anthony Davidson after the session.
On F1’s last visit to the Barcelona circuit in March for the final winter test, the MP4-30 proved both the slowest and least reliable of all the 2015 cars in action and the team have since then spent race weekends steadily clawing their way back from the foot of the grid.
Two months on, Button admitted there was a night-and-day difference in performance around the high-speed track.
“I don’t think you can compare – it’s very different. It’s a massive difference to winter testing, we’re also able to put mileage in now so that’s a big change,” the former world champion said.
“The circuit’s probably slower because of the heat and the wind but the car feels 10 times better than it did then, so it’s good.”
When it was put to him that seventh place with a best lap time just 1.6 seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton’s pacesetting Mercedes appeared to represent good progress, Button replied: “That’s the closest we’ve been all year. It’s always nice to see it on the timing sheets, but it is only practice.
“We always seem quicker in P2 than in qualifying, but we’ll see. I would say it’s a promising day when you compare us to the front guys.”
Although pleased with the apparent step forward, Button said the sizzling heat and gusty conditions that dominated Friday’s running had made for a challenging pair of sessions.
“It’s been tough day today I think for everyone,” he recounted. "P1 with the prime tyre felt reasonably good but tough in terms of the balance around the lap with the wind and the hot temperatures.
“P2 really struggled on the prime tyre, the option tyre was much better, but there’s a lot of work for us to do in every area to optimise what we have. It’s been a good day in terms if data, but there’s a lot of work to do to understand why the car is doing certain things.”
Team-mate Fernando Alonso, returning to the scene of his mysterious accident at the test in February, finished P2 a couple of tenths slower than Button in 11th place.
"It was okay," the Spaniard said. "We need to check all the tests we did today and tomorrow hope everything's together and increase the performance a little bit."