Former F1 World Champion Jenson Button has shrugged off another 'disappointing' day inside the cockpit of McLaren-Mercedes' troubled new MP4-26 contender in Barcelona – his last opportunity to get some crucial kilometres under his belt ahead of the Melbourne curtain-raiser at the end of the month – to warn the team's competitors that it would be unwise in the extreme to write them off.
McLaren's pre-season preparations have been persistently stymied by mileage-limiting reliability woes, and today around the Circuit de Catalunya for Button was no exception, with the British star managing to complete just 57 laps following a precautionary engine change. The track time that he did have was spent focussing upon pit-stop practice, flow-vis aerodynamic tests, evaluations of the 'porpoise nose' measuring equipment mounted to the MP4-26's nosecone and short runs to gain further data about the Pirelli tyres.
Although he revealed that he had not been chasing lap times, for the 31-year-old to wind up a lowly 13th out of the 14 drivers present on the end-of-day timesheets – a gaping 4.6 seconds shy of pace-setter Michael Schumacher – was hardly an encouraging portent for McLaren, whose quest to end a constructors' world championship drought stretching all the way back to 1998 still shows no signs of ending anytime soon. The raw speed, however, Button insists, is
“As it was my final day of testing, it was disappointing not to be able to put more mileage on the car,” the nine-time grand prix-winner mused, “but I think we learnt some positive things. Today was never about pace, as we weren't running lower fuel loads, but there is pace in the car – it's just been masked by reliability issues.
“Now, I'm looking forward to Melbourne. You can't underestimate a team as determined as McLaren-Mercedes – we're all pulling together and we've got some interesting developments in the pipeline.
“Finally, I just want to add that today's events at the track are really put in their perspective by the terrible tragedy in Japan. Right now, my thoughts go out to everybody in Japan, particularly in the worst-affected area of Sendai. My heart is with them.”
It was a rather more straightforward day, by contrast, for McLaren's traditional arch-rival Ferrari, with double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso returning to the track for the Scuderia
and completing a marathon 140 laps behind the wheel of the updated, ultra-consistent 150° Italia.
The Spaniard ran an identical programme to the one that had been brought to a close the previous day by team-mate Felipe Massa, centring predominantly upon a comparison of various aerodynamic elements – including a number of front wing configurations – followed by a race weekend simulation. Alonso wound up second-quickest in the final reckoning, and will remain in the car to wrap pre-season testing up for Ferrari on Saturday.
To see Friday's testing times in full, click here