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Chinese Grand Prix 2013: Button gives McLaren a glimmer of hope
14 April 2013
No one's saying that McLaren's early 2013 woes are behind them, but there was a definite hint of a spring revival in the way that the team managed to engineer a fifth place finish for Jenson Button in the F1 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai this weekend.
"I'm very happy to have finished fifth today - and the team should be too," stated Button after Sunday's race.
He'd started from eighth position on the grid and was relying on a two-stop strategy with a first stint on the durable prime tyres to give him a chance of battling other drivers who were gambling on starting on the softer-lived options. But the race strategy required a lot from the driver in order to make it work.
"I had to cruise when I'd normally fight the others," Button explained. "It's not the most exciting way to go racing, but we got then points today because we did it.
"The race was always going to be tricky: we weren't quick enough to adopt the same strategy as the others, so we had to run longer than the rest and make two pitstops, rather than three," he added.
There were few drivers who could pull off such a smooth driving style in a race situation, but if pressed then Button's name would surely be at the top of a very short list. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh for one was very impressed by what Button had achieved.
“Jenson drove a brilliantly executed race," he said. "He was extremely controlled throughout, completely understood the requirements of the strategists, and withstood the temptation to push when the right thing to do was conserve the tyres.
"The fact that we're not yet in a position to realistically finish higher than fifth further highlighted the brilliance of Jenson's drive," he added.
Button's team mate Sergio Perez - who had previously impressed with his long tyre conservation runs at Sauber before joining McLaren at the start of 2013 - was also tasked to make the two-stop strategy work in China, but it didn't pay off as well for the Mexican driver who finished the race only once place ahead of where he'd started on the grid, just outside the points in 11th.
"The strategy didn't quite work as well for him," admitted Whitmarsh. "But he did a great job today. He's still learning, and he'll take a lot away from this weekend – all of which will make him come back stronger for the next race in a week's time."
“This was a difficult afternoon for me," agreed Perez. "There's a lot for us to analyse, and a lot to learn. It wasn't my best weekend in terms of pace, so there's some work to do.
"Congratulation to Jenson, he drove a fantastic race today. He found a better rhythm and really made the strategy work - I couldn't find a flow throughout the whole race and was struggling with the car," Perez added. "I had a reasonably good first stint and thought we could achieve a good result with the strategy, but then we encountered degradation with the tyres and that compromised our pace.
“We still don't have the speed in the car, but it's been a useful learning weekend for the whole team, we got some useful points on the board, and we head to the next race with a clearer idea of just what we can do," he said.
And despite his relative success in getting McLaren's best result of the 2013 season to date, Button himself agreed that the team was far from out of the woods just yet.
"We know we still have a lot of work to do to challenge at the front," he said. "But we can take a lot of positives away from this weekend."
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