Jenson Button fears it may take McLaren some time to return to the front of the grid
McLaren finished ninth and over 80 seconds behind race winner
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 18/03/13 9:50am
Jenson Button admits McLaren are not quick enough to challenge the fastest teams.
Jenson Button has raised the spectre of a long route back to the front of the Formula 1 field for McLaren, admitting it "could take quite a while" to turn their underperforming MP4-28 into a competitive proposition.
Although Button had flagged up the fact early on in pre-season that McLaren were taking time to get to grips with their revolutionary new car, and they might not therefore be at their best at the very start of the campaign, few expected the team's Melbourne travails to be quite so stark.
Having started on already heavily-grained tyres from tenth on the grid in Sunday's race, Button was only able to make up one place across the 58-lap race, while Sergio Perez couldn't work his way into the points.
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Speaking to Sky Sports F1 afterwards, the former World Champion conceded that as was as good as it was ever going to get for McLaren this weekend.
"We definitely were not getting any more points than that," Button said.
"We definitely weren't quick and I think we made the right calls considering what condition we had the tyres in after qualifying. The last four laps of the race were tough because my prime-tyre stints were very, very long because of the short 'option' stint.
"But we got it home and got a couple of points, so that's not bad. I think as a team we did a great job this weekend but we're not quick enough and there's a lot of work we need to do to move forward and challenge the front guys.
"We're a long way off."
Button was then asked how long he expected it to take McLaren to return to the sharp end of the field. The brutal honesty of his answer was telling: "I don't know. Who knows? We're not what we think we are so it could take quite a while."
A dramatic turnaround is therefore highly likely to be achieved in time for the next race in Malaysia, which follows just a week on from the Albert Park season-opener.
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With the Melbourne track surface only having exacerbated McLaren's woes over the past three days, Button expressed hope that the permanent nature of Sepang might help improve things - although, in stark emphasis of the team's plight, suggested simply another points finish would be a good result again.
"We struggled here with ride - everyone's noticed, it's no secret - so hopefully in Malaysia it's a smoother circuit, hopefully we will get rid of those issues and we can find a bit more performance - you never know," he said.
"If we can get into the points again with the car that we had at the moment I don't think it's too bad. We had races last year with a good car that we struggled to get into the points, so we will see what we can do."