Jenson Button says the upcoming Chinese Grand Prix “won’t be an easy race” for McLaren-Honda, as the 2009 world champion expects “different conditions” to the first two rounds of the season.
Coming off a disastrous 2015 campaign, the British team and Japanese manufacturer have taken a significant step forward over the winter – highlighted by the MP4-31’s top-10 pace in Bahrain two weeks ago.
But with Shanghai International Circuit featuring two very long straights – one being 0.727 miles, and the longest of the season –, Button is braced for a challenging weekend, as Honda still needs to improve its end of straight speed.
“[The venue] places a lot of stress on both the tyres and the power unit, but I’m hopeful that with this year’s package, we won’t suffer as much on this track as we have done previously,” the Briton said. “The key will be preparation and set-up: getting the aero balance right from Friday onwards, and getting on top of the tyre wear with every new set.
“This won’t be an easy race for us – the conditions will be very different to Australia and Bahrain – but it’ll be good for us to test the characteristics of the MP4-31 there, and understand as much as we can about how it behaves on this sort of track and with the cooler temperatures.”
Having previously said that McLaren can be “really proud” of the progress it has achieved, Button, who will be on his second engine in China after suffering a technical issue in Sakhir, hopes reliability problems have been ironed out.
“The Bahrain race weekend was bittersweet on my side of the garage. We definitely saw another step in the car’s performance from Australia as we keep learning more about the handling and characteristics of the car, and bring new upgrades to each grand prix.
“Until the point when we lost power, the car had felt very good, and I’m hopeful that we can continue that momentum in Shanghai and make the most of the package we have.
“As always though, we need to work hard on our reliability. We’ve definitely seen an improvement in that area, but anything less than 100 per cent is never enough, and it’s important we take advantage of our progress to bring home the points we deserve and have something to show for all of our efforts.”
Button’s best effort in the Chinese Grand Prix came in 2010 when he led then McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton home to win a rain-hit contest from fifth on the grid.
Chris Medland’s 2016 Chinese Grand Prix preview
PROFILE: Paddy Lowe, the pioneer
Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter
Click Here: liverpool mens jersey