Jenson Button: “The Midfield is Extremely Close”

For the third race in a row, the McLaren Mercedes team failed to score a point. After the double podium finish in Australia, hopes had been high for a better 2014, but right now the team are the fourth fastest Mercedes-powered team in Formula 1, a position the team did not foresee nor want to be in. Drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen would finish just outside the points in 11th and 12th at the end after a rather mediocre weekend for both.

Button lost a handful of places at the start that resulted in him struggling for track position throughout the race, and even when the team gambled on an early second pit stop to try and get the undercut on drivers ahead of him, circumstances went against the Briton and he ultimately finished just out of the points in eleventh.

“The start and the first lap cost me a lot of time, and my second pit-stop compromised my strategy,” said Button.  “During the first two stints, it felt like we were making progress, because we were faster than the cars in front. But we gambled on taking the second stop early, thinking we could jump one of the Force India’s, but Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso followed me in, and caused my release to be delayed by a few seconds while he came past me in the pit-lane.  

“Then I came out of the pits just in front of Lewis [Hamilton], who was lapping me. He was running old tyres, while I was on fresh rubber; I had to let him past, but it delayed me a bit more. 

“Nonetheless, I think we learnt something useful today.  The midfield is extremely close, so even small improvements will make a difference.”

For team-mate Magnussen, a technical issue with his power unit left him out of position down in 14th on the grid. His race began well, despite a close call with his team-mate at the final chicane that saw him cut the corner and nearly collect Sebastian Vettel‘s Red Bull as he re-joined the track.  He finished on the tail of his team-mate, but felt he could have scored points had he started further up the grid where be believed he should have been.

“Today was pretty hard work,” said Magnussen. “I made a good start, and was having a really good first lap. Then, into Turn 13, I went side by side with Jenson and went wide onto the marbles. As I came back onto the circuit, Sebastian [Vettel] hadn’t seen me, and our cars briefly touched. Luckily, there was no damage to either of our cars, so we could both carry on without problem.

“I knew it would be difficult to go forward from 14th on the grid – the midfield is very tight, so making progress is extremely tough. Moreover, today there was little to choose between the Option and the Prime, which meant we couldn’t use a different strategy from the others’ in an effort to make up places.

“If we’d started where we should have [i.e. without the qualifying problem], I think we could have scored some good points today. As it was, there wasn’t much we could have done out there other than what we did.”

Racing Director Eric Boullier felt his team had made some progress in Spain, but the result wasn’t there to prove it due to how close the midfield actually are. He knows the team are on the right track, but knows the development race is a long one.

“Our qualifying form showed that we’d taken a small step forwards in terms of performance, although that increment was somewhat disguised by the power-unit issue that prevented Kevin from setting a time in Q2,” said Boullier. “We were unable to translate that small step into points-scoring form, largely as a result of the fact that Jenson lost a few places on lap one and Kevin had started from P14 through no fault of his own.

“Their lap-one scrap was combative but clean, and after that they both drove very well in difficult circumstances, Kevin eventually crossing the line in Jenson’s wheel-tracks, less than a second behind, after an excellent and spirited drive.

“We know our journey to full competitiveness won’t be a short one, but it’s already clear that the trend is in the right direction.”