The McLaren-Honda team saw both drivers retire from the hot and humid Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, although both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso believed progress had been made with their MP4/30, which bodes well for the rest of the season.
Despite retiring, Button felt it had been a useful day for both himself and the team, and admitted he was enjoying himself racing against other drivers, something that the Briton was not expecting to do. He is hoping this progression continues so he can be fighting for higher places later in the season.
“The start of the race was a bit of a mess for me,” revealed Button. “I’d had a longer-than-normal pit-stop under the Safety Car, and came out behind Roberto [Merhi], who didn’t close down the gap before the Safety Car came in. At the restart, I then started about four or five seconds behind the pack, had to get past him, then chased down the cars in front – which hurt my tyres.
“But I enjoyed it out there – we’re actually racing people. To be able to see one of the Red Bulls ahead of me – and so far into the race – was obviously a nice surprise. And we were able to mix it with the others a little bit more, too.
“Fighting in the pack is the most positive thing to take away from this weekend – hopefully, before too long, we can start to pick them off on a race-by-race basis.
“Today has been a useful day; it’s just a pity that both Fernando and I ended up finishing it early.”
Team-mate Alonso agreed with Button that the team had made progress, and was also disappointed to see his race end early when the team called him into the pit lane to retire. He knows with the limited running the team saw during pre-season testing that problems will arise, and he admits he was expecting some retirements early in the season.
“The main positive to take away from today is the fact that we were able to run with other cars – Jenson and I weren’t simply fighting with each other,” said Alonso. “That was the first step we needed to take, and we’ve taken it already.
“Indeed, our race pace was surprisingly good; I was running with the pack, and I was even able to catch the Red Bulls before the pit-stops. That was a nice surprise.
“We still need a little more time to investigate the exact cause of my retirement. The team came over the radio to tell me to back off a little, to save the car, so I brought it back to the pits.
“For us, these are the sort of reliability problems you’d usually discover in pre-season testing, but, given our lack of running over the winter, unfortunately we’re likely to encounter such issues in the first few races of the year.
“Hopefully, we can take another step forward in China.”