McLaren has made a 'small amount of progress' and 'the development trend appears to be in the right direction', that's the view of team principal Martin Whitmarsh following qualifying for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Jenson Button and Sergio Perez both made it through to the top-ten shootout and in the end qualified eighth and tenth respectively, although with rain falling in Q2 and with conditions drying in Q3, neither session gave a clear indication in terms of the ultimate pace of the various teams.
Nevertheless, however, Whitmarsh still paid tribute to his two drivers and to the whole team for their efforts to progress after a nightmare weekend in Australia, less than seven days ago.
“Both Jenson and Checo drove commendably solidly in qualifying here today, in tricky conditions in which it would have been all too easy for them to have made costly mistakes,” Whitmarsh said. "In terms of car performance, while we'd never be even remotely satisfied with P8 and P10, it's fair to say that we've made a small amount of progress since last weekend's Australian Grand Prix, so I want to say thank you to all the guys, both on the road and back home in Woking, for their sterling efforts in that respect.
“Just as important, though, we've continued to gather useful data, which we'll now number-crunch intensively with a view to continuing our evolution of MP4-28.
“There's still a long way to go, because as I say we're not yet even close to where we want and need to be in terms of car performance, but it's probably fair to state that, although the gains we've made have been small so far, the development trend appears to be in the right direction.”
Button and Perez meanwhile also reckon the team has made a few small steps forward over the last week.
“I don't think we can really expect to qualify any better than P8 right now – but, having said that, to be just two-tenths off the guy who won last weekend's Australian Grand Prix [Kimi Raikkonen] in Q3 can't be too bad,” Button remarked. “Q3 was wet today, of course, but during Q1 and the first half of Q2 it appeared that perhaps we're now a little more competitive in the dry than we were this time last weekend. We're still not quick, but the guys are doing a fantastic job to get everything they can out of our car.
“As for tomorrow's race, well, when you've got a quick car, you never want it to rain. When you've got a less quick car, you do want it to rain. Today, though, we didn't have great pace on the Intermediates [tyres] in Q3, when it was raining, so all I'll say is that as always we'll battle hard and see what the race brings.”
“Considering how our car was behaving at Albert Park just a week ago, I guess you could say that was an encouraging qualifying session,” Perez chipped in. “Jenson and I both got into Q3, which was a relief, but obviously we know we've still got a long way to go in terms of car development. Having said that, I can see how hard the team is working to improve our car, and it's a really good feeling to be a part of that.
“It often rains in the late afternoon here in Sepang, so I guess tomorrow's race may well be affected by wet conditions, given that it's scheduled to start at 4.00pm.
"But I really enjoy racing on this circuit, and, whatever the weather, I'll give my best tomorrow for the best team in F1,” Perez summed-up.