'We're not going to win the grand prix' admits Jenson Button ahead of 250th race
2009 champion also unsure when the team will win again
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 03/04/14 4:19pm
McLaren driver Jenson Button has conceded defeat in his hope of winning his 250th grand prix in F1 this weekend.
Button marked his 200th race in the sport with victory in Hungary two years ago but, in the face of Mercedes' early-season domination and McLaren's own regression in Malaysia last week, the 2009 World Champion has already waved the white flag ahead of this Sunday's Bahrain GP.
"We're not going to win the grand prix and we have a very slim chance of a podium," conceded Button to Sky Sports News.
After returning to the podium for the first time in 16 months in the season-opening Australian GP, McLaren fell way off the pace in Malaysia where the characteristics of the Sepang circuit were especially punitive on the MP4-29.
Measured against the run-away W05 of Lewis Hamilton, the scale of McLaren's deficit was even more ignominious, with the sixth-placed Button crossing the line over 83 seconds behind his former team-mate.
"Less high speed and less temperatures here will help us a lot," added Button.
"We have good straightline speed and we have a few new bits on the car which should help us. But the important thing is to get back on reasonable pace and fight with the Ferraris and Force India because they beat us by 36 seconds in Sepang."
Having during the gestation period with the MP4-29 deliberately targeted a solid foundation from which to build, Button says McLaren have no regrets over the approach they took - but admits they hadn't envisaged Mercedes being so far ahead.
"It was a car that was designed to have a good balance initially," the 34-year-old explained.
"We knew that the car was lacking in downforce. That was always the direction we wanted to take, a car we could really build on, last year's car was the opposite.
"So, yes, I think we have done the right thing - we just didn't expect Mercedes to be so much further in front."
But asked when he expected the team to return to the winners' circle, Button bluntly replied: "I don't know, you're asking the wrong person. Ron [Dennis] will be here this weekend so you can have a chat with him."
Sunday's Bahrain GP, exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, will start at 6pm local time - 4pm in the UK.