Jenson Button believes McLaren has reason to be excited for the future after showing arguably its most encouraging weekend performance since the switch to Honda power during the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Though a somewhat unsatisfying weekend in terms of results after Button retired early on from the race with technical difficulties, there were glimmers of potential from the MP4-31 package, with the 2009 champion believing he had a car to take him as far as seventh in the race.
Indeed, though he struggled in Q2, Button says his lap in Q1 – on low fuel, fresh tyres – was indicative of the potential the MP4-31 has and how far it has come twelve months on when Button barely completed a lap in Bahrain.
“If I compare my lap in Q1, I think we have been reasonably happy with the car in terms of the way it feels, the speed it carries through corners, the confidence under braking. It is moving in the right direction. In Q1 it is the happiest I have been with a race car in a while.
“I felt that with a bit more front-end we could put together a pretty good lap in Q2 and be knocking on the door of Q3. We are going in the right direction and it feels we are knocking on the door of Q3, which is a step forward. It is not where we ultimately want to be but we are moving in the right direction.
Indeed, Button says he gleans 'a lot of confidence' from the car and though the Honda power unit still requires work, he feels it is improving all the time.
“The car gives you a lot of confidence now, which is positive. It seems to keep making a step since Barcelona to the first race and to here. I think we surprised a lot of people in FP2. I don't think we were going to hold onto third quickest in qualifying but I don't think we were able to show our true pace which is a shame because it is on the up.
“In terms of outright power, we are improving all the time which is great to see, and in terms of reliability as well, which is fantastic. There is always more we need to do with the car and the power unit as a package. I think the important thing is to look at the positives that we can take out this weekend.
“We have new parts coming, new options with the power unit, so it is all moving in the right direction. Last year was a tough year for us for many reasons but I think we are the right path which is great to see.”