Defending world champion Jenson Button has conceded that the experience of Bahrain a fortnight ago taught McLaren-Mercedes a valuable lesson about the importance of absolutely nailing qualifying in F1 2010 – with opportunities to fight your way up through the order on race day proving to be distinctly limited.
Button qualified just eighth for the curtain-raising outing at Sakhir, but with the new ban on refuelling in the top flight having made the cars heavier and more cumbersome than usual to drive in the initial stages of the races and shifted the emphasis strongly onto tyre-management and fuel conservation rather than attacking brio, overtaking moves under the desert sun were few and far between.
For his own part, the 30-year-old spent the entire duration of the grand prix stuck in a traffic jam with Mercedes Grand Prix rival Michael Schumacher and Red Bull Racing adversary Mark Webber, only getting the jump on the latter during the sole round of pit-stops courtesy of a quick turnaround from his McLaren crew and a brief delay for the Australian.
Faster than 'Schumi' but conversely unable to find a way by, Button is well aware that both he and his team need to make a better fist of qualifying this weekend in Melbourne – scene of the first victory that set him on-track for title glory with Brawn GP twelve months ago.
“Everyone is talking about the race in Bahrain not being the most exciting,” mused the Frome-born ace, “but I think everyone needs to look at the positive that qualifying was a lot more fun to watch and a lot more fun to take part in. We learned that qualifying is very important, and we did not get it right – and that is an area we have obviously been talking about over the last few days.
“The car was good in practice but then not in qualifying, and while our race pace was much better, I was stuck behind Michael for the whole race so it was a little bit frustrating. We headed back to the factory straight after for a debrief, which went really well. We know we were weak in a few areas that we can put right and a few other areas that maybe we can't quite yet – but we came here (to Australia) I think very well-prepared.
“Nothing has changed since the last race. The Red Bull is a very good car as is the Ferrari. We were not on their pace in qualifying or even in the race [in Bahrain], so we have to make a step forward and we don't really have any big upgrades here. I'd like to win; I think when you are in a quick car you want to win every race you go to, but whether that is possible we have to wait and see.”