2011 Season, Formula 1 (F1) - Jenson Button - McLaren, Formula 1 (F1) - McLaren -

Button: McLaren closer to Red Bull than this time last year

Jenson Button believes McLaren is closer to Red Bull's race pace this year than it was at the start of the 2010 season. The 2009 World Champion was speaking to his official website after the first race of the season in Australia when he made the comment. Even though the potential and pace of the Red Bull was shown at Sunday’s grand prix in Melbourne, Sebastian Vettel was quicker in qualifying trim by about 0.8 seconds and 22 seconds faster over a race distance, Button believes those statistics are misleading and is confident the McLaren is quicker than it looks, especially in race conditions. "Clearly, the Red Bulls are quick, Sebastian's pole lap showed everyone that," he told his official website. "But, on race pace, it would look as if we're already a lot closer at this stage of the season than we were last year. I know you can say that Red Bull weren't using KERS Hybrid, which puts a couple of tenths in your pocket, but I don't think it's as clear-cut as you might have believed on Saturday evening.” "We're very definitely in the hunt.” Button continued. “I think there's a massive amount of untapped potential in our car: Sunday was the first time we'd even completed a race distance with the car, which tells you how much there is to get out of the package.” The British driver also believes that Ferrari are again going to be strong this year: “I think Ferrari will be very strong too.” Button said. “They started the weekend strongly, but it sounds like they went a little backwards on Saturday and into Sunday. But their race pace was good, so I think they'll only be stronger at the next two races. All in all, it's looking like a continuation of the battle between the three top teams that we saw last year, which will be great for the sport and the fans." Button finished the 2011 Australian GP sixth on Sunday after he was given a drive-through penalty for cutting a corner while overtaking Felipe Massa. Although, Button continued adding that the car gave a solid performance: "At no point did the car ever feel anything less than totally planted underneath me," Button added. "That's the most encouraging thing. At the start of the race, I was stuck behind Massa, and, even when I was in the tow, I could still pretty much keep the car right up behind him. Our car just felt incredibly strong through the corners. He was moving about a bit trying to keep me behind - on the whole he did a good job of defending, but it got a bit frustrating because it was pretty clear that I was faster than him.” "And, at the end of the race, it was also encouraging that we could also pretty much match the pace of the three-stoppers, who had fresher tyres. Like I said, it was frustrating to be stuck behind them rather than ahead of them. But we can clearly see the potential is there to get some more good results in the next few races." Button’s McLaren team mate, Lewis Hamilton also praised the drivability of the updated MP4-26, which was running a new diffuser made of titanium because the team did not have enough time to manufacture it from carbon fibre. The Woking based team will however have a significantly lighter diffuser in carbon and exotic Pyrosic heat shielding ready for the Malaysia GP in a week’s time, and Hamilton is confident the car can only get quicker. "I feel really comfortable with this car - I'd always said the car felt good, we just lacked a bit of downforce and some decent mileage during the winter tests - and I feel like it's a car that is easy to push to the limit, so I'm very hopeful of what will be coming along to add to its performance down the line," he told his official website. "Don't forget: before the race on Sunday, we'd only really had about four hours of track time to develop and understand the new floor and exhausts. And Sunday was our first race distance of the year. So I think there's a lot there that we can really learn to push and get an even better understanding of how the car works. "I've been speaking with Doug [McKiernan] and the aerodynamicists and engineers and we've got a huge amount of interesting stuff in the pipeline. As a team, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes never sits still - you can guarantee we'll have new parts arriving for the next race, and Martin [Whitmarsh] is fantastic at pushing the team to bring forward whatever we have. It's relentless, but it's really where we excel as a team: we never give up, we work incredibly hard and we make sure we deliver."


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