Jenson Button has warned that, despite McLaren qualifying first and third on the grid for the Korean Grand Prix, the race itself remained something of a mystery after Friday's practice sessions were washed out by persistent rain.
McLaren has been the dominant team in terms of topping the timesheets this weekend, with Button fastest in the tricky conditions of the opening day and Lewis Hamilton heading each phase of qualifying before claiming the team's first pole position of the 2011 season, but the former admits that there is still much to be learned about the car's performance in race conditions, especially with high fuel loads and Pirelli tyres that have not run at the Korea International Circuit prior to this season.
"I am reasonably happy where we are," Button insisted, "It is not perfect, but we can race very well from here. There is a lot to play for still and we really haven't got a clue what is going to happen tomorrow in terms of tyre [degradation] on high fuel. We haven't done that yet, so we don't know how competitive we're going to be yet but, looking at the pace today, I would say that we would be reasonably competitive. [It is] really a bit of an unknown, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."
With Pirelli offering the soft and supersoft compounds for Korea, reportedly with the harder option lasting twice as long but with a pace difference of nearly a second, Button admitted that strategy, especially with a lack of dry running, was going to have more than a few people scratching their heads.
"[The key will in] being quick in terms of consistency throughout the whole race, something we've been pretty good at for the last couple of races," he noted, "It's very difficult to know what to do in terms of strategy tomorrow because, again, we haven't really run the tyres. We know that they've got a short life but how short and if you can make any difference by trying to look after them? It's very difficult to know.
"I should think everyone's looking forward to the race tomorrow, especially at the front. It should be a lot of fun out there. Finding our feet is going to be the first thing on high fuel, to see how the car feels and acts with that much fuel on board.
"If you looked at practice in Suzuka, we were very quick and the same here, but I think some of it is due to maybe us running less fuel than other people, especially compared to the Red Bull, because they seem to be a lot more competitive in qualifying. But, as a team, in terms of the car, I think we're in a great place right now.
"As I said, I really don't know how the race is going to go tomorrow, but you'd think that it would be between us and the Red Bulls, [although] I don't think Ferrari are that far behind in terms of consistency. Over one lap, they maybe don't have the pace but, in terms of consistency, we saw them very strong in Suzuka, so they might also be there tomorrow. It's a great way to end the season."