Reigning F1 World Champion Jenson Button has admitted that Ferrari are 'fast' following the opening pre-season testing salvo in Valencia this week – but he was curiously less categorical when asked to comment on the new McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25, at the end of a 'useful' but 'frustrating' first day on-track for his new team.
Button lapped fifth-quickest of the seven drivers who took to the Circuit Ricardo Tormo on Wednesday, 1.5 seconds adrift of the leading pace set by fellow title-winner Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari and seven tenths shy of the fastest effort from team-mate Lewis Hamilton 24 hours earlier, with the Stevenage-born ace having been effusive about the car's potential.
Having acknowledged that he 'knew' the first time he drove last year's Brawn GP BGP 001 that it was a very rapid piece of kit indeed, the 30-year-old's rather more muted disclosure following 82 laps inside the MP4-25 – insisting that it is still too early to tell whether the car will allow him to successfully defend his hard-fought drivers' crown – will one day perhaps transpire to have similarly spoken volumes.
“It was a long and tough day but it has been very useful,” Button told reporters, after grappling with a few initial teething problems inside his new 'office' and confessing that McLaren need to 'put our blinkers on and work with our car and improve it' rather than pay too much attention to other teams' lap times.
“It was a little bit frustrating in the morning that it took us a long time to sort the seat, but that's how it is the first time with a new team. We finished working at about 1am [the night before], trying to get the seat right in the car. You obviously have it made in the mock-up, but it's always different when you get in the car, and out on the circuit it's always a bit different to what you expected.
“We've been doing a lot of work to make me comfortable in the car, because initially it wasn't quite where I wanted it to be – I was sitting quite high up and was uncomfortable. We had to change a lot within the car, but I fit well now and feel comfortable and have a good height in the car, and that is always important for your confidence.
“In a way, it would have been nice to have got some more testing done, more set-up work, but this test was always planned to help me get used to the environment inside the cockpit, get used to working with the team and run through all the checks you always do at the first test. It was a busy day of finding my way around the cockpit.
“It's difficult, because this is not the best circuit to get a feeling for how the car is going to be during the season; it's very different to any other circuit to race on – the balance is very different. I think we can say that Ferrari are fast – you can't do those times if you're not competitive – but we don't know how fast. You never know what fuel they are running when they do those times, but their slower runs – for which I'm guessing they used a lot more fuel – were still reasonably good.
“It's wrong to talk about who is quick and who isn't, though. Everyone will have updates for the first race, and with the difference in fuel loads you could be running ten kilos or 160 kilos, so there is a massive difference and it's difficult to read into it.
“I think at the next test we might have more of an understanding, when people are running very different fuel loads, and you can get an understanding of the difference of those loads and how much time per ten kilos it is. Then you can work out who is quick and who isn't, but at the moment it is important for us to put our blinkers on and work with our car and improve it.
“I have a feeling it's going to be a great season. There's going to be a lot of action, and fans will enjoy the season. There are a lot of differences in the way we'll be going racing, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. It's always nice walking into the garage and seeing your name on the car and No.1 – but when you get down to business and close your visor, you don't think about the number on the car.”