Jenson Button & Martin Whitmarsh spot signs of improvement in McLaren's MP4-28
Progress 'plain to see' says former World Champion
By Mike Wise at Sepang. Last Updated: 24/03/13 7:04am
Jenson Button: Reckons McLaren have made 'a lot of progress'
Jenson Button and Martin Whitmarsh believe that McLaren are finally making progress with their troublesome new car.
Speaking after qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday both agreed that the team's attempts to understand and extract performance from the MP4-28 are starting to bear fruit.
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Button and team-mate Sergio Perez qualified eighth and tenth respectively but each will move up a place after Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen was handed a three-place penalty for impeding.
Both will naturally hope to make further headway in the race. Yet for the team as a whole, the weekend has mainly amounted to a test session.
Practice has seen the car daubed in flow-viz paint as McLaren seek to improve the car's aerodynamics. They have also added - and removed - new components and tried different set-ups.
With staff at McLaren's factory also working around the clock, it's all part of a painstaking operation. Yet, according to Button, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"All in all, I think we should be happy with what we did and he we've moved forward from Melbourne. Five days ago we got out the car and were pretty disappointed with the performance," he said.
"At the last race, I think we were over 1.5s off the pace, probably quite a bit more than that. Here, I think in qualifying, if it was dry, we could have been within a second if not less.
"We're still not where we want to be but we've made a lot of progress in five days and I think that's plain to see."
Whilst in agreement, Whitmarsh exercised more caution. "Every time the car left the garage since we've been here, it's been an experimenting process," McLaren's Team Principal said. "The car has a long way to go...but the encouraging sign is that there are some small incremental improvements. But more importantly, they have given us a good steer and a good direction.
"We know the car is far from optimised but it has responded to some of those changes we've been making. That will go back into the team to give them the fresh impetus to make sure we improve the car before we get to China.
"We have to understand our car, develop it and make it less peaky and more useable. I think we've made some small steps this weekend, which is positive, but we need to make a few more."
Not for the first time these past few days, Whitmarsh said that McLaren would persist with the MP4-28 rather than revert to last year's car.
"I can categorically kill (the rumour) off....for the time being," he joked.
"We believe we can turn this car into a race-winning car and that's what we're going to try and do."