F1 2009 world champion Jenson Button has predicted it could be a 'fun scrap' tomorrow at the Sepang International Circuit and he is confident McLaren will be able to take the race to the Red Bulls.
Button looked very competitive in qualifying for Sunday's Malaysian GP and topped the times in Q2. However in Q3 he was unable to repeat that feat and in the end finished up on the second row of the grid in fourth, his best lap a 1 minute 35.200 seconds, which left him 0.021 seconds off Mark Webber in third and 0.330 seconds off Sebastian Vettel in pole.
“I just wish Q2 had been Q3, but it wasn't!” Button said. “I had a touch more oversteer in Q3, but that's the set-up direction I chose to take. The balance was pretty good, but I hurt the tyres a little bit too much in the final sector, and that left me in fourth.
“It looks like it's going to be a fun scrap tomorrow though – we're a lot closer to the Red Bulls than I think many people expected, and there's a margin over the guys behind us, so hopefully it will be the four of us playing tomorrow [for the win].
“Our starts weren't great in Melbourne. [But] I hope they'll be better in this race; we have a very good KERS Hybrid system, so hopefully it will help us and we can really attack into Turn One. I'm looking forward to it – the weather has held off for the past two days. And if it's a dry race, we really should be able to take the race to the Red Bulls.”
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh meanwhile has paid tribute to the team for transforming the MP4-26 into a competitive stead after a difficult winter, although he too is praying for it to remain dry.
“Clearly, we're encouraged by our pace here – but there's no magic involved: F1 is all about hard graft, and I want to thank everyone back in Woking for working so hard to achieve the performance improvements that we've seen here today,” Whitmarsh continued.
“We think our race pace tomorrow ought to be good enough for us to mount a very serious challenge for victory, and that's certainly what we'll be aiming for. But it'll be close, no doubt about that.
“Since the race is scheduled to start at 4.00pm, rain is a distinct possibility, because there has been a downpour at that time on quite a few days earlier this week.
“But we hope it doesn't rain because we think we'll be on the pace if the race is a conventional dry one.”