Jenson Button says he is optimistic about his chances during the 2012 F1 season after McLaren launched its new MP4-27 in Woking this morning.
Despite winning three times last season to finish second in the championship standings, Button was unable to challenge Sebastian Vettel for the title after the German dominated the 2011 campaign for Red Bull.
The latter stages of the season however saw McLaren become much more of a contender as the pace of the MP4-26 improved and Button said he was keen to see how much the team could build on that progress when the new seasons kicks off in Australia.
“With the regulations remaining relatively stable, we've really been able to focus on the detail with this year's car,” he said. “I still think we had a very fast package last year – it was very strong in certain areas – and our race pace was almost always fantastic, but we're hoping for a further step forwards in 2012. With Mercedes-Benz, I think we also had the best overall engine and KERS Hybrid package in the pitlane.
“We were also able to continuously develop throughout the year to match Red Bull – and that shows that we have the knowledge, effort and resources to sustain our efforts across the course of a whole season, which can be crucial.
“I know that the whole team is extremely proud of the MP4-27. It may look like a direct evolution of last year's car, but we've analysed every area of performance over the winter and the whole car has benefited from lots of fresh thinking and new ideas in every area.”
McLaren's major issue last year was a lack of solid running in testing as the MP4-26 struggled in pre-season, and Button added it was important to hit the ground running this time around to maximise the potential of the car and get good points on the board from the first race of the year.
“I'm really looking forward to getting behind the wheel in Spain next week,” he said. “I know that everyone will be watching us very closely to see what progress we make during the pre-season tests, but I genuinely believe we have every reason to feel optimistic about the progress we've made and our competitiveness this year.”
However, Button warned that Red Bull remain the team to beat going into the new season and would again be strong contenders for the crown.
"You don't suddenly build a bad car after wining the Championship for two years," he said. "We hope they do - but I would be surprised if they do.
"We don't know where we stand, so the important thing is stay focused on what we do, look at the next few weeks and see where we stand then."