Jenson Button was much happier this afternoon after changes to the McLaren MP4-26 transformed the car between sessions.
Button was 15th and struggling with lack of grip in FP1, but was second – and just 0.005s off Mark Webber – in the second session.
“We found it a little bit difficult this morning,” Button admitted. “It’s very different conditions to what we’re used to. I think we went a direction after Melbourne with the car to try and solve the issues we had there, and it’s very different here, so we’ve gone back on a lot of the changes, and really turned the car upside down.
“It’s performing much better now. I’m happy with that. This session is so much better than the last session on short runs, and also on the long run at the end.
“I think for everyone it’s rear grip, that’s what’s difficult round here. The tyres are doing what was expected, they have low rear grip, but it’s very different to what we saw in Melbourne. But the last run on the soft tyre was reasonable, but when they drop off, they fall off a cliff. It’s very tricky and there’s a lot of degradation. That’s pretty much what we saw in testing, so we’ve got experience.
“It’s tough out there on these tyres, especially in the heat, but it’s the same for all of us.”
Button says he has no idea what the real gap to Red Bull might be.
“I don’t know. We don’t know what fuel they’re running, as always. Normal Friday comments I know, but that’s the way it always is. We’ve just got to do our own thing. And for me the balance improved a lot today, and that’s the important thing. We changed a lot on the car, and we found that we made positive steps.”
Button expects the DRS to be a useful tool: “It’ll work really well round here, because you’ve got such a long straight. In a way it will make it too easy to overtake. This is a circuit where if you get within one second of the car in front, normally you can have a chance of overtaking. I think the difficulty will be to get within that one second.”