Jenson Button says he is getting more speed from the Honda power unit following free practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix, raising hopes he could get into a battle with other teams.

Following an uncompetitive start to the new season in Melbourne, McLaren has showed vastly improved form during free practice at Sepang, ending the day just adrift of the Force Indias and the Sauber of Felipe Nasr.

Indeed, Button feels the car - particularly the engine - has made a step forward, while reliability has thus far been faultless despite the exceedingly high temperatures in Malaysia.

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"We're getting definitely a lot more out of the engine here, which is good you know," he said. "It's not like we have new parts, it's just maximising what we have. We've definitely made some improvements. Good job by everyone for that but it's still a long way to go but in terms of power and consistency of the power, it's working quite well.

"We've both been running smoothly with both cars, which is good. We're maximising a lot more now in terms of the PU itself but also the MGU-K and other areas. It's basically getting more out of the current engine than what we had in the first race. It's just through experience of running the whole race in Melbourne so that's all good.

"The race is obviously the more important thing for us in terms of information and seeing where we stand with other cars. Our long run on the option tyre did not seem too bad. We were not far off the Force Indias and the Saubers so that is a good step forward. That's what we're looking at now to try and improve."