McLaren's Jenson Button continued to be a determined beacon of hope and optimism in the F1 paddock in Hungary on Friday, talking up the team's performance in free practice heading into the Hungarian Grand Prix race weekend at the Hungaroring.

"It's been a reasonable day in terms of the set-up work we've done. I think we've improved our understanding of how the car works," he told reporters after the end of three hours of track time in Budapest. ""We actually managed to get quite a few things tested, and our car feels okay around here."

One of the focuses of Friday's activity for McLaren and every other team and up and down pit road was evaluating the performance of the new Pirelli tyres introduced this weekend to ensure there's no repeat of the blow-outs seen at the British Grand Prix last month.

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Button said he was happy with what he'd seen of the new compounds and didn't envisage any problems adapting to the tyres this weekend, despite the forecast of scorching temperatures for Sunday exceeding 100F.

"There's very little degradation on the option tyre, it's more front- than rear-limited, so the tyres are working well, which is another positive," he said.

But despite that, Button was still almost a second off the pace set by the Red Bulls, which the former world champion was quick to acknowledge. "It's a weird circuit this; we have updated the car but when you look at the times compared to the quick cars it's a big gap. But in race pace we'll probably be a little bit closer.

"The car feels reasonably good around here," he insisted. "I don't think the car we had in Nurburgring would have been that great round here so this is definitely a step forward, which is really nice to see, and this will help us at the next couple of races.," adding: "But there's still room for improvement."

One of the factors Button highlighted for the gap was the temperature which shot up between the morning and afternoon practice sessions. "The two sessions were quite a contrast for us because of the difference in temperature from the morning to the afternoon," he said.

His team mate Sergio Perez agreed: "The car felt pretty good this morning, and our times were competitive, but the track temperature changed in the afternoon, so I wasn't entirely satisfied with the balance of the car in the end.

"Now, we've got time to go away and analyse why the balance felt so different between the two sessions. We've got a lot of information to sift through, and I think we have the potential to do better tomorrow," Perez insisted. "Our aim for this weekend will be to score points and to have another decent weekend as we did in Germany."

Button had predicted earlier in the week that the team might be able to compete for a podium at the next race after the August break, something that McLaren's sporting director Sam Michael was keen to play down somewhat on Friday.

"The team's just working away in our normal fashion of understanding. Like any sort of programme, you go through waves of understanding and improving correlation," he said. "The drivers are upbeat but ultimately, we're still on a journey back to the front of the grid."