Jenson Button: “The new asphalt here is very strange”

Credit: McLaren Media Centre

Jenson Button admits he is not impressed with the new asphalt after the opening day of practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The McLaren-Honda driver finished Free Practice 1 in tenth with a time of 1:37.613, behind former team-mate Sergio Perez. There were no problems for Button during the session but disappointingly he finished 1.103 seconds behind Fernando Alonso, who was sporting the upgraded Honda engine.

For Free Practice 2 Button seemed to be struggling with the MP4-31 during the first half. Button had to settle for tenth with a fastest time of 1:36.390, again finishing behind Alonso.  On the Brits first attempt at a timed lap on the Soft compound he was forced to back out of it by Kevin Magnussen as the Renault driver got in his way.

This weekend sees teams and drivers experiencing the Sepang International Circuit’s renovations for the first time. Along with nine corners being altered, the whole venue has been resurfaced, along with updating of drainage and run off areas. Button describes the asphalt as being ‘very strange’, with him experiencing a lot of grip before it is suddenly taken away from you.

“We were out a bit late in FP2 because some of the set-up changes we made to the car took a little bit longer than we thought,” said Button.

“That meant I got out when everybody else was on high-fuel. Then I caught up with Kevin [Magnussen] in Turn 10, and he kept on the racing line, which hurt me in terms of lap-time. So the single-lap pace of the car isn’t too bad – and I even think we can be further up tomorrow.

“The long-run pace isn’t quite there yet – but we think we know what we can do with the balance to help that. The new asphalt here is very strange – it feels like there’s a lot of grip, then it’s suddenly taken away from you. It’s difficult to read – it feels a bit like Sochi: the oversteer comes out of nowhere.”