McLaren management have accepted that Jenson Button's poor showing in the Canadian Grand Prix was down to problems with his car, and not a loss of form from its driver.
While team-mate Lewis Hamilton was overcoming both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel to claim his first victory of the 2012 F1 season, Button was - literally - sliding backwards from an already disappointing tenth on the grid, making three pit-stops for fresh tyres as he struggled for grip on either the soft or supersoft Pirelli. The Briton eventually came to rest in a lapped 16th position, sandwiched between Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso and Bruno Senna's Williams.
"I'm not two seconds slower [per lap] than Lewis," Button insisted immediately after the Montreal race, "I'm pushing the car to its limits and I'm one-and-a-half to two seconds off the pace of the leaders - and one is my team-mate. It's not tyres, I can't be the only person who can't drive the tyres, it's impossible. But I don't know what's going on. I'm confused and very lost."
Now McLaren appears to agree with its driver, with various members of its senior management accepting that the team had let Button down, first with mechanical gremlins that cost him vital time in opening practice, and then failing to tune a revised suspension set-up to his MP4-27.
"As a team, we've let him down in a few areas," sporting director Sam Michael conceded to Sky Sports F1
, "He lost so much track time here because of a gearbox issue and we ended up going in quite a different route and didn't get enough long-running data. I think that really affected him.
"Lewis can drive a car a little bit differently, he can adapt his style around it, whereas Jenson tends to need a rear-end grip car. Overall, though, it's not a huge difference. If we turn up with a car that is competitive, then he can deliver. Look at the way he drove in Melbourne. When everything is going right, he's a world champion. There's no doubt in our mind that he will turn the corner and we're 100 per cent behind him. He'll be back very soon at the front."
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh had already hinted at the suspension problems in the team's post race statement, and confirmed that that was the area being focused on as he too lent his backing to his beleaguered star, who has added just two points since finishing second in China. Indeed, the Briton's results this season have been either feast of famine, with his victory in Australia and podium in Shanghai combining with ninth in Spain, 14th in Malaysia, 16th in Monaco and 18th in Bahrain.
"Jenson is a great racing driver, but we served him badly over the weekend," Whitmarsh acknowledged, "His rear tyres were completely shot because we didn't long-run with his suspension set-up on Friday. That was our fault. We didn't give him a car he could perform in. Looking at what is happening with the rear tyres, I think the car was excessively hard on them. It was killing the tyres."