McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen were left to lament another scoreless weekend after toiling through 56 laps in Shanghai, complaining that the MP4-29 lacks the grip to compete with its rivals.
Having scored a double podium and topped the constructors' table after the opening round of the 2014 F1 season in Melbourne, McLaren has quietly slipped backwards, posting a double DNF in Bahrain two weeks ago and now failing to trouble the scorers after finishing eleventh and 13th on the road in China.
Despite having the all-conquering Mercedes V6 powering them, neither driver made the final phase of qualifying in the wet on Saturday, and rarely got close enough to contemplate points in a race where just two cars fell foul of technical gremlins. Button crossed the line one lap down on racewinner Lewis Hamilton and not close enough to challenge Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat for the final point, and was quick to pinpoint the reason for the team's struggles.
“There's not much else to say other than were not very quick at the moment,” he sighed, “We had a bad first lap but, even so, we're not very quick right now and we're destroying the tyres.
“The car's an alright car, it's a good car, but we can't get the tyres working, which is one of the biggest things in F1 these days. [Lack of downforce] is a big issue, although there are cars with lower downforce than us out there and I don't know how their race was. The problem for us is that were struggling to get front tyre temperature in the wet, but it's also an issue in the dry - it's not that you don't switch the tyre on as such, it's just that it grains immediately as soon as you put it on the car.
“We're maxed out on everything on the car and we're very high with the front wing, more than we've ever been before, so its all very strange. Hopefully, we'll solve it for the next race as its pretty painful out there.
“We've got a lot of work to do, and it's tough for all of us: it's tough out there driving the car as we've got to put up with it for an hour-and-a-half, it's tough for the guys here working non-stop, but also very tough for all the guys at Woking, so hopefully they can stay positive at MTC and keep bringing us upgrades as we definitely need them.”
Asked whether he can expect better in Barcelona in three weeks' time, the 2009 world champion admitted that, despite expecting new parts for the car, it would take a lot to turn it around in that time.
“We've got some upgrades, but we're a lot further behind than we were at the last race and I don't really think that [other] people have brought that much here, so I don't know what we're doing. I think we've realised here that we're very 'front limited' and this is a very tough circuit for front limited cars . It's not an issue we've had for a little while and it's really shown where our problems are. Hopefully, [the team] can stay positive and keep updating the car because, at the moment, this isn't good enough!”
Rookie team-mate Kevin Magnussen had less to say, but it was clear that he shared Button's views.
“It's just lack of downforce really,” he confirmed, “It's a shame, but we just don't have enough downforce and I think that's the only issue we have with the car. The way the car is run and how it feels is good, it just lacks overall grip and it's not going to make a difference that [the next race is in] Europe – it's the same problems that we'll have...”