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Button fears for season after misery in Melbourne

Jenson Button admits that he fears for his F1 title hopes after a miserable Melbourne weekend.
Jenson Button has repeated his claim the new McLaren MP4-28 is not a competitive proposition, as it emerges that a set-up error in testing may have given the team false optimism before the season began.

Having managed only tenth in the delayed Australian Grand Prix qualifying session, Button went on to finish an anonymous ninth in the race itself, better than predicted but still frustrating for a man who had topped the testing times during the winter and headed into the season believing that he could be a title contender.

Instead, despite notching up a couple of points he felt may have been beyond him, the Briton is already a long way behind the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel with little hope of a resurgence while the early season 'flyaways' come thick and fast, beginning with this weekend's trip to Malaysia.

Button and McLaren ended the 2012 season on a high, with victory in the Interlagos finale, but, instead of optimising the package it had with the MP4-27, the team opted to redesign its car in the hope that it would provide a higher development ceiling than its rival, many of which are logical evolutions of 2012 machinery. Button has made no secret of the problems the team had in understanding the car's behaviour during the winter, and it appears that things aren't getting any better.

"We didn't expect to get a couple of points, but it doesn't really ease the pain," the Briton sighed when talking to the media after a tough 58 laps around Albert Park, "If we came away from Malaysia with the same number of points, we'd be ecstatic, but I think we're going to have a tough week. We can't do too much before next weekend, so we're not suddenly going to be competitive.

“We should be further forward, so hopefully we can understand the car a bit more after the race today and extract a bit more performance, but it's going to be a long night doing the debrief."

It would appear that McLaren's pre-season test pace created false hope within the team, as veteran F1 scribe Adam Cooper reveals that Button posted the fastest time at Jerez with certain parts fitted incorrectly to his car. Ironically, combined with that particular circuit and the fuel loads he was running at the time, the resulting low ride height actually made the car better than it was when the mistake was corrected. Unfortunately for McLaren, it would have been impossible for the MP4-28 to run in its 'Jerez configuration' over a race weekend, particularly with heavier fuel loads.

“It was a part fitted incorrectly which caused us to run the car unrealistically low, [and] that happened to play to the strengths of the car,” team principal Martin Whitmarsh confirmed, “It wouldn't work on a bumpy circuit like [Australia]. That's why the car at the moment is too peaky in its performance, and that's something we've got to resolve. It was a set-up which on many tracks was not realistic.”

Despite trailing in the early stages of the season, however, Button is refusing to give up on his title dream, even if the car will not receive a major overhaul until the teams return to Europe for May's Spanish Grand Prix – a point at which many, it has been claimed, will have to decide whether to their technical resources behind the new rules for 2014 rather than prolonging their involvement in the current battle.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
15.03.2013- Martin Whitmarsh (GBR), Chief Executive Officer Mclaren
17.03.2013- Race, Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4-28
17.03.2013- Race, Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 leads Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9
17.03.2013- Race, Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 leads Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9
15.03.2013- Free Practice 1, Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4-28
McLaren - Honda MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32 F1 launch, [Credit: McLaren]
McLaren MCL32, McLaren-Honda, [Credit: McLaren]
Fernando Alonso - McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren Honda MCL32
Lando Norris joins McLaren`s Young Driver Programme
McLaren, 2011 launch, [Credit: Crash PA]
Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso - Mercedes, McLaren

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roja - Unregistered

March 18, 2013 2:54 PM

What a load of bull!! They are a team on the way down fast now! No Hamilton for speed and set up skills and no Paddy Lowe or Vodafone from next year either. Remember Williams used to be the dominant team not so long ago and look how quickly they fell down the ranks. Mclaren are going the same way. As much as Hamilton could be a pain they are going to miss him this year.

roja - Unregistered

March 18, 2013 4:10 PM

Oldtimer I agree Ive NEVER rated Button ever totally over hyped by the British press in my opinion has a few lucky/jammy wins every year due to the weather and safety cars etc.. This years car was supposed to be geared around his style of driving not Hamilton's as thats the reason he was SO SLOW last season! You go to ask yourself 1 pole in 3 years! honestly the guy just doesnt cut it at this level. The car is obviously a dog but it needs a Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi type of driver to drag it around the track kicking and screaming, Button and Perez just cannot do that

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