The McLaren-Mercedes garage sent out mixed signals at the end of the opening practice day for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton pleased with progress and ready to 'push the envelope' ahead of qualifying, and team-mate Jenson Button conversely lamenting having 'a lot of work still to do'.
The British duo ended FP1 atop the timesheets in first and second respectively – albeit separated by the gaping margin of more than half a second as Hamilton asserted his early supremacy over everybody
else in Barcelona – but they would fall away to fifth and ninth in FP2 later in the afternoon as Red Bull seized charge. The 2008 F1 World Champion, however, remained in positive spirits.
“It was quite windy today, so despite running right through our programme, we struggled a little bit,” explained the 25-year-old, “particularly at the end when we changed to the 'Option' tyre and encountered a bit of traffic. The new parts have definitely given us a step forward, but we don't yet know how big that step is compared to our rivals.
“Generally, however, the car doesn't feel too bad and hopefully we'll be able to make some further set-up changes overnight, too. Tomorrow we'll just be focusing on our programme, pushing the envelope and analysing everything we can to make sure we're as competitive as we can possibly be.”
“I think we've still got a little bit of work to do, to be honest,” countered a less satisfied Button. “I didn't get as much running done this morning as I would have liked because I hit something coming out of the pits – probably a small part of a car, which damaged one of my car's bargeboards.
“This afternoon, we embarked on some set-up changes that we thought were headed in the right direction, but I'm not sure if they were. There's a lot of work still to be done on both tyres – some of it is possibly set-up, and some of it is getting the tyres in their correct working range.
“This afternoon was a very tricky session. A few teams were already getting their cars to work well, so we should be able to get there too – but there's a lot to be done this evening to figure out exactly why our car didn't feel as we expected it to.
“I don't think it's an issue of the new components working or not; I think it's more about not turning the tyres on properly, or not working them in the correct way. We've got a lot of data to go through, but I'm certain we can make some improvements and come back with a stronger car for tomorrow.”
One thing that seems indisputable – and reinforces the conviction of the Woking-based outfit's team principal Martin Whitmarsh from earlier in the week [see separate story – click here
] – is that the 2010-spec MP4-25 is far better-suited to the high-speed nature of the Circuit de Catalunya than have been its recent predecessors, and as such might just be about to re-ignite McLaren's winning ways in Spain following a five-year drought.