Jenson Button has played down hopes of McLaren returning to front-running competitiveness at the Spanish Grand Prix despite an encouraging run in FP1, the British driver insisting the team remains behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

Button turned in the second fastest time during FP1, but would slip back to seventh best during the hotter second practice session with the man himself suggesting the latter position is a more realistic indication of where McLaren are this weekend.

Indeed, the 2009 F1 world champion says optimal temperatures and low fuel contributed to McLaren's good form in the morning, adding the car has a 'narrow window' when it comes to working best in certain conditions.

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"The hotter temperatures were a lot harder for us to get the car working," he said. "On the short runs and long runs we were struggling more, but to be fair when you look at the times, we're leading Force India. In the morning we looked a lot quicker than we were because of the low temperatures and low fuel loads. Hot and cold temperatures don't work, so there is a very narrow window when you are limited on downforce.

"I think this afternoon is where we are in terms of pace and where we expected to be. I enjoyed this morning, we were quicker than expected in the medium temperatures, but once it gets to 40 and above, we struggle with overheating a bit. At the moment we are around the Williams and the Force Indias."

Team-mate Kevin Magnussen was more positive about the step forward, saying it is positive to have any kind of improvement, however small.

"The car feels better, so hopefully we can have a good weekend. I think we have made a small step forward. It hasn't changed the world but it is a small step and we need to keep doing that now to catch up.

"We can still be positive about the improvements we have made. We can't stand still, so anything forward is good and it looks like we are at the front of the middle pack if we get it right."