Shanghai, April 8 (IANS)
Formula 1 driver Jenson Button believes his team McLaren now have their rivals in their sights ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
After starting the 2015 season in Australia with severe lack of pace, McLaren and their new power-unit supplier Honda made significant progress a fortnight later in Malaysia, reports dailymail.co.uk.
Although both Button and teammate Fernando Alonso retired at the Sepang International Circuit, the duo at least discovered that the car was competitive, running alongside other midfield runners.
It came as a pleasant surprise to Button, who is now hoping further steps have been taken going into this weekend's race at the Shanghai International Circuit.
“Obviously we want to finish a race, but seeing improvement in pace was much more important. Yes, we both had failures. But I'd rather that with us pushing and trying to get more power out of the car than trotting around at the back and simply getting to the end,” Button said on Wednesday.
“To be able to race other cars, and see the Red Bulls until a long way into the race, was good. We would probably have been 20 seconds behind them. I know they're not quick, but that is a good step forward for us. Right now, we're comparing ourselves with the Force Indias, Saubers and Lotuses.”
The Englishman added, “We were quicker than Force India, the Sauber was on the same sort of pace, and the Lotus wasn't that much quicker. Fighting with the pack is important for me. It's what I enjoy and hopefully race by race we'll start picking them off.”
Despite the positives, the 35-year-old acknowledged the entire team, including Honda, “still has a long way to go”.
“We need and want more downforce to fight with the guys around us and we still have a lot to do with the power unit, but our basic car is good. If you look at our high-speed pace, compared to the Force India and Sauber, then we are much stronger,” said the 2009 World Champion.
“So we're moving in the right direction and I'm already surprised we are racing cars. It's great to see.”
Part of the reason behind McLaren's improvement in Malaysia, in comparison to Australia, were the high temperatures which suited the car. Button admitted that the cooler air here could have an effect.
“There is a feeling the expected cooler weather will make it harder to generate tyre temperature. That could mean any progress we make doesn't necessarily translate to a lap-time benefit,” said Button.
“But there is definitely progress being made and it's great to be able to play a role in helping move the whole team forwards. It'll be fascinating to see how much change we can effect over the forthcoming races.”