Despite being frustrated by a flawed strategy switch that left him struggling to salvage sixth place in the Hungarian Grand Prix, Jenson Button insists that there are still positives to be taken from the final race before F1's summer break.
Qualifying fourth on Saturday afternoon was an encouraging continuation of the return to form that saw the Briton claim second place in the German round just over a week ago, and Button defied his own concerns that he would be starting on the 'dirty' side of the grid by capitalising on a mistake by Sebastian Vettel to pass the German at turn two on the opening lap. From there, he continued to run in a podium position until the second round of pit-stops, when the decision to pit early allowed Vettel to get the undercut and emerge in front when he his stopped four laps later.
Unable to find a way past an obstinate Bruno Senna, Button's race began to slip away, prompting the McLaren team to switch him to 'Plan B' and a three-stop strategy. Whilst he emerged ahead of Senna, the ploy failed to have a bigger effect, leaving Button to give vain chase to championship leader Fernando Alonso over the remaining 24 laps.
"I was really pleased to be able to get ahead of Seb on the opening lap, passing him on the outside of turn two, and to be able to hold a very solid third place at that point," Button noted, "I was on the leaders' pace too - in fact, even after the first stop, I could still see the leaders, so we were obviously still pretty close. However,
we decided to go for a three-stop strategy but, after my second and third stops, I encountered traffic, which made things really difficult for me because the traffic I was stuck in was lapping quite a bit slower than I could have been lapping if I'd had a clear track."
Despite only securing a further eight points to add to his meagre championship tally - Button remains seventh overall, nearly 100 points off leader Alonso - the Briton is optimistic for the remainder of the season.
“There are lots of positives to take away from this weekend," he insisted, having seen team-mate Lewis Hamilton lead from lights to flag, "Our car is obviously quick, as I was able to show at Hockenheim and Lewis was able to confirm here. In the second half of the season, I know that everyone at McLaren will work as hard as possible to maintain and continue that upward performance development curve."
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh shared Button's belief that the remainder of the season could be positive for McLaren, as the Woking team attempts to close down Red Bull Racing's points lead.
"Jenson had a frustrating race but nonetheless managed to score a useful eight points," he acknowledged, "Like Lewis, he'll come back from the mid-season break ready to attack the second half of the season with energy and enthusiasm. And, again, also like Lewis, he'll be aiming to score plenty of points, at Spa-Francorchamps and Interlagos and everywhere in between.
"In the constructors' championship, the 33 points that Lewis and Jenson scored today have lifted McLaren to second place overall. Again, as with the drivers' championship, we're in a good position from which to work as hard as is humanly possible to close the gap on the leaders and wrest the constructors' laurels by season's end. We'll now take our holidays, we'll recharge our batteries, and we'll return at Spa-Francorchamps in a month's time, fighting fit and ready to do battle once again. Bring it on!"