Button: 'I haven't driven a McLaren like this before'
Jenson Button believes the McLaren MP4-30 has the ingredients to be the best McLaren he has driven since joining the team in 2010, but admits it will not get close to its full potential at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.
McLaren struggled for mileage throughout testing and arrives in Melbourne with concerns about making the full race distance on Sunday. However, from the initial feeling of the car in testing, Button says the Honda-powered MP4-30 has the basic traits of a winning car minus the necessary downforce.
"I feel that this is a good start but we don't have enough downforce to fight with Mercedes or even a couple of the other teams," he said. "But the basic philosophy and idea of the aerodynamics and how it works is definitely right. I haven't driven a McLaren like this before, not in the way that it works.
"I'm not saying it's the quickest McLaren I have ever driven, because it's not, but in the way that it works the basic car is very good and it means we can build on it. The airflow will be very clean, so basically we can just add downforce. Beforehand [on last year's car] you would add downforce and it would really change the characteristics of the car, so it's a more consistent car in terms of balance. But as I said, it still needs a lot of work to be competitive.
"Last year you had a lot of downforce when you turned in and hit the brakes but you lost all downforce at the apex. This car is very different, it does what you hope it will do, which is very important for myself and also for Fernando as far as I can see. Looking at the data, Fernando and I like very similar cars and it does the right thing, it's just whether we have enough downforce."
Button said mileage is the main target this weekend in Australia.
"I have no aim in terms of position, but I believe we can finish the race. You are going to have doubts and it would be stupid not to have doubts when you look at winter testing because we haven't completed a simulated race distance yet. It would be incorrect for me to sit here and say we are going to finish, but who knows?
"The aim is to finish and I have confidence that we can get enough mileage under our belts this weekend to sort out niggly problems, but I think the most important thing is to just get out there and see what we have. We had a lot of testing, so we have done a lot of development work and basic testing - that's the key for us to understand the car a bit more and do set-up work and see progress."