"Clearly we're not as quick as we'd like to be," was Jenson Button's blunt assessment at the end of the first day of free practice in the 2013 F1 world championship.
That was something of an understatement. Last year's race winner was almost two and a half seconds off the Red Bull
driven by Sebastian Vettel
at the end of three hours of free practice running at Albert Park
in Melbourne, and things weren't getting any better as the day progressed.
"Our short runs weren't particularly encouraging, to be honest," he admitted. "We're a couple of seconds off the pace, by the looks of things, and that's always going to be disappointing for a team as successful as Vodafone McLaren
"In a situation like this one, all you can say is that there's a hell of a lot of work for us to do, and that we're well up for it," he continued. "This team is incredibly good at turning things around, performance-wise, when that's what's required."
But the British former world champion was under no illusions that it was looking like Saturday was going to be a tough time of it for the team, based on their showing in free practice so far.
"Qualifying won't be easy, but I'm pretty sure we'll be able to do a better job on Saturday than we've done today," he said, leaving unspoken the implied 'it could hardly be much worse.'
"I'll be surprised - and very happy - if we are in the top ten on Saturday," was his assessment of where McLaren
stood on the basis of Friday's performance. And things hadn't appeared to be improving as the day went on.
"Our car appears to be lacking in grip and consistency, and is suffering from significant understeer and poor ride," contributed team principal Martin Whitmarsh. "Try as we might, we didn't move forward in performance terms during the course of the day, either."
"We have quite a few weaknesses with the car," Button elaborated. "Ride is a lot worse than what we expected and Martin's already pointed that out. We've been working with that today to try and improve the car around the ride, but we haven't really found a direction yet.