Jenson Button has expressed his confidence that McLaren is not destined for another desperate Formula 1 campaign ahead of the 2016 season, but stopped short of putting a target to his name.
Button and team-mate Fernando Alonso suffered a dismal 2015 campaign as part of McLaren's new collaboration with Honda, with poor performance and reliability consigning the team to its worst F1 season in more than 30 years.
With a concerted effort over the winter to bring the new Honda-powered MP4-31 package up to competitive pace, though pre-season testing drew few firm conclusions as to where McLaren will be placed come the Australian Grand Prix, the consensus is it will feature further up the order.
Indeed, Button is optimistic he won't be 'hanging off the back' in 2016, but admits there is still some way to go before the car – particularly the power unit – is up to par with the front runners.
“I'm hoping we won't be hanging off the back but there's still a lot of work before I feel that we are properly competitive,” he said. “There's still a lot of work needed to find a set-up that really works for us because we're not there. So a lot of work still needed.”
“I have no targets. My only target is to push, to give it our all, give our maximum and we'll see what the results are. There's never a positive of me setting a target right now because as a positive person you're always going to target higher than possibly maybe you can achieve, and then you just get knocked down by other people, so it's not worth it.”
Having been forced out in Q1 on several occasions last year, with full deployment available to him now, Button feels McLaren can expect more fortune in qualifying, even with the new format.
“In qualifying there was probably 0.1s or 0.2s because we couldn't deploy even through a qualifying lap for the whole lap. Now we can easily, so it's a good amount but there's still a lot more we need to do to really be competitive in every area - with the power unit, with the car itself aerodynamically we've still got a long way to go until we're properly competitive.”