Jenson Button says McLaren in battle with Williams and Force India at Spanish GP
Ex-World Champion slipped from second to seventh on timesheet
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 09/05/14 5:35pm
Jenson Button admitted McLaren's lower-key afternoon position on the Barcelona timesheet was a more accurate reflection of their competitiveness and reckons beating Williams and Force India is their realistic Spanish GP target.
While all teams have brought sizeable upgrade packages to Barcelona, the first European round of the season, the improvements McLaren have developed for the MP4-29 - which include a revised front-wing and repackaged rear - were particularly closely scrutinised on Friday given the former World Champions have slipped down the order since the start of the season and failed to score points in the last two races.
Button's pace in the opening practice session, when he was second-fastest behind the dominant Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, offered hope that the Woking outfit had made a big immediate step forward. However, in the second session the Briton slipped to seventh place, two seconds off the leading pace.
And three weeks on from McLaren's struggles in the cool conditions of Shanghai, Button said the afternoon increase in Barcelona's already warm temperatures from the morning had gone against them.
"The hotter temperatures this afternoon were a lot harder for us to get the car working in," he said. "We seem to have a very small temperature range. So on the short runs and long runs we were struggling more, but to be fair when you look at the times, we're sort of Williams, Force India pace, which is really where we are anyway.
"This morning we looked a lot quicker than we were because of the temperatures and maybe fuel loads. We're trying to work with the balance and try to improve the long runs a little bit more because I think we can make it a bit stronger."
With the team half a second back on fourth-placed Ferrari in P2, Button suggested the warmer conditions had taken the Maranello outfit and Red Bull away from McLaren. However, he thinks they are at least back on the pace of Williams and Force India after outpacing both outfits on Friday.
"I think they're coming into their working range and we're going out of ours," Button reflected. "It's a pity, but where we are in P2 is basically where we expected to be before the weekend.
"I think we can improve the car a little bit more in the long runs to lift us and be as quick as the Williams or maybe in front of them. So that's probably our aim, to beat the Force Indias and Williams here."
Although the 34-year-old said the updates to the MP4-29 had improved the balance of the car, he confessed: "Hot temperatures, cold temperatures, there's a very narrow window when you're limited on downforce."