Despite equalling his previous best finish at Spa-Francorchamps, and from further back on the grid, Jenson Button
admitted that there would always be the question of how much higher he could have been had it not been for a mixture of mistakes and misfortune.
The biggest mistake came on Saturday, when the Briton found, against expectation, that he did not have another lap to complete in the second phase of qualifying and was bundled down to 13th in the final order. Then came the expected danger posed by starting in the middle of the pack at Spa, where the tight La Source hairpin is the opening corner.
"I think, if I'd stayed in 13th after the start, it would have been a lot easier to challenge these guys [for the victory], but it was mayhem," Button reflected, "I think it was caused by the cars at the front getting a poor start, [but Paul] di Resta hit my rear wing, so half the end plate was gone. Then, driving to Eau Rouge, somebody's front wing blew off and went through my front wing and took the wing mirror off, which was a bit scary.
"[After that], I was really struggling for grip. The front wing was damaged, but the guys said 'keep going until we get to lap five', which we did. We came in and changed the front wing, put option tyres on and did the rest of the race on options. It was a fun race, with lots of good overtaking, and I really enjoyed it out there, but you are always going to say 'what could have been'."
The 2009 world champion was particularly frustrated to have finished behind both Red Bull
drivers on a circuit that had been expected to favour McLaren
over its Milton Keynes rival.
"All weekend, the car has felt great," he noted, "For me, the balance has been phenomenal in wet, dry or intermediate conditions. It felt like we'd made a step forward since Hungary, so to just come away with a third is disappointing. But then you have got to take everything else into account, [especially] the misunderstanding in qualifying. But these [Red Bull] guys were very fast and they did a very good job. Who knows what would have happened if we had qualified well...."
Having to come from the back of the pack meant Button was forced to showcase the sort of overtaking ability that has been on display several times already this season, and the Briton could not disguise how much enjoyment he had derived from the 44-lap event.
"I had a fun race, and it will be one of those that I will look back on and say that was enjoyable," he conceded, "I had a lot of overtaking - and it's not very often you overtake two cars around the outside into turn one, and at the same time, so it was enjoyable. I went down the outside of both of them and overtook them both, but the problem was, heading down the hill to Eau Rouge, they both used DRS so, coming out of Eau Rouge, I had a car either side of me and into Les Combes was a lot of fun, but I stayed in front.
"[At the end,] I could tow up to [Alonso] on the straight, there was no one in front of him and I could do him with DRS, as I did with a couple of cars, but it wasn't easy at the beginning of the race because everybody had DRS open. You had to overtake normally, which was more fun into the last chicane and into turn one."
The season moves on to its last European stop in two weeks' time and Button, after completing a demonstration run in Manchester today [Monday], believes that the Italian Grand Prix
should hold better prospects for the McLaren
"We've got to look forward to Monza, because we have a very strong package," he reasoned, "For me, this is the best the car has felt all year, but we just didn't get the best out of it [in Belgium]."