Jenson Button reckons McLaren
is 'heading in the right direction' and has said the long run pace was 'surprisingly good' on Thursday during practice for this weekend's F1 2013 Monaco Grand Prix.
Button was eighth quickest in both FP1 and FP2, and while he ultimately finished up 1.2 seconds off the top time posted by Nico Rosberg, the Englishman added that he felt a lot happier with the troublesome MP4-28 than he has for a while.
“We struggled in the morning when the circuit was still fairly 'green' – we couldn't get any temperatures into the tyres, but I think that affected everybody, not just us,” Button remarked when asked about his day.
“Our pace on a long run looks surprisingly good, although we're not quite there with our qualifying pace yet. Still, I feel happier with the car here than I have the past few weekends,” he continued.
“There are some areas in which we've struggled before that now seem a little bit better, and that's obviously positive. We may not be setting amazing times out there, but I'm happy that we're heading in the right direction. And hopefully we can improve on Saturday from where we are today.”
Team-mate, Sergio Perez meanwhile was ninth in FP1 and twelfth in FP2, and he is 'hopeful' they will be able to make it into the top-ten shootout on Saturday.
“We tried a lot of things during today's practice sessions. Not everything worked; some of the things we tried made it difficult for me to feel confident with the car, especially through the faster corners. So we'll come back on those changes before Saturday's practice. Still, we had no nasty surprises either, which was positive,” said the Mexican.
“I'm hopeful we can make it into Q3. I actually think Saturday will be the most important day of the weekend – everyone will be trying to save tyres so as to have as few stops as possible in the race. It's likely to be a slow race with low degradation, so we need to give it our all on Saturday.”
“I always view getting two cars home unscathed after a day's running around the tortuous streets of Monaco as a positive,” summarised McLaren
team principal, Martin Whitmarsh. “It's a circuit that takes no prisoners; where a moment's late-braking, or an over-enthusiastic squeeze of the throttle, can easily wipe a corner from the car. Happily, both Jenson and Checo immediately found their groove so that we were able to conduct positive evaluative work during this morning's session. The car is responding positively to set-up changes and we're making progress.
“More encouraging still was our long-run pace in the afternoon session. However, of course, it's clear that our toughest challenge of the weekend will come during qualifying, wherein our car's pace is still too far from that of the pace-setters. Nonetheless, in Jenson and Checo, we not only have two excellent race drivers, but two men who know how to get the best from their cars when the stakes are high. They'll go into qualifying with the utmost focus and determination to do their best.”