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Button sure McLaren can close gap

ESPN Staff
April 11, 2013 « 'Extraordinary' lap needed to beat Massa in qualifying - Alonso | Unwell Hamilton skips Thursday media sessions »
Jenson Button: "If we can turn it around in a few races and be fighting at the front that's very encouraging for the rest of the season" © Getty Images
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Jenson Button says it will be "very encouraging" for McLaren if it can be fighting for victories within the next few races.

McLaren started the season well off the pace in Australia but showed impressive powers of recovery to put Button in a position to challenge for a podium a week later in Malaysia. Coming in to the Chinese Grand Prix Button says he is still unsure where McLaren lines up on outright qualifying pace but thinks it is 0.3s per lap slower than Red Bull in race trim.

"In qualifying in Q2 we were 0.9s slower than Rosberg," Button said. "I don't think many people had a clean lap and I definitely didn't - it started raining in turns six and seven - so I don't really know our true pace in qualifying, but our pace in the race was very promising.

"At stages the Lotus was quicker than us in the race but for a lot of the race they weren't - they were slower - the Red Bull's were quicker and the Mercedes were a touch quicker but because we were able to do less stops we would have come away with a good result I think. We were strangely good on tyres in the race and I didn't think that would be the case after our issues in Melbourne."

Button also admitted that he had wanted to switch to the 2012 car after Australia but now believes the team will be in a strong position if it can challenge for wins soon.

"It's so easy for people after Melbourne to say we should go back to last year's car and I think even from my point of view it's really difficult to not think like that because for the last few races we were quickest. But what we have done with the car I think is the right thing. It has hurt us a lot, especially at the first race and it might still here and Bahrain, but the idea was always to have a car we could develop through the season and we felt at the end of last year that we were at the end of everything with last year's car.

"I think the one thing that surprised us is that nobody else has gone our route. We're the only team to do that; we expected all of the top teams to do the same thing so we didn't think that we would have lost anything at the first race. We thought that the smaller teams would probably keep the same tub, go in the same direction just slightly improve through the winter and they would be competitive at the first race. We didn't expect for most teams - well all teams apart from us - to go in the same direction, so that's what has hurt us. It's hurt us in terms of a lot of points but the championship is still completely open; there are still 17 races to go and if we can turn it around in a few races and be fighting at the front that's very encouraging for the rest of the season.

When it was put to Button that McLaren's rivals might not be able to develop their cars as quickly, he replied: "I don't think they will be that much, I don't think they will. For us, yes I think that is possible."