April 13th, 2013 (F1plus).- McLaren is now looking ahead to May's Spanish grand prix, admitting it is still far from pulling out of its crisis. This in spite of having on of its cars into Q3 today during the qualifying session.
"If we have started turning it, it's a long corner," Jenson Button said in Shanghai on Saturday.
With the British team bringing upgrades to its struggling MP4-28 in China, Button told reporters: "We've made a small gain, but it's not as big as we'd hoped."
The sense of underachieving could be felt within the team. Still, an encouraging effort from Jenson Button, who made it to Q3 and will start from 8th should ease the burden. As for his qualifying session, he implied that strategy would be paramount to compensate for lack of performance.
“Our aim was to be the first Prime-tyre runner on the grid – even if it meant qualifying 10th – and we did that. This was the best we could do with what we have.
“Nevertheless, I think we should be very happy with our qualifying performance: we don’t really have the pace of the front-running cars yet, but finishing seventh in Q2 was really satisfying. And to out-qualify both Red Bulls in Q3, and with a two-minute lap, was amazing!
“All the guys in front will be starting on grained Soft-compound tyres, and I think we’re going to see the high-fuel graining on the Soft that we saw in practice yesterday, so it’s going to be an extremely interesting race
“The first 10 laps tomorrow are going to be eventful; if I can get a good start, I’ll hopefully be able to find some clear air in front of me, and then we’ll see what happens.
Unlike Button, Sergio Perez failed even to make the cut for the top-ten 'Q3'. He will start from 12th after not being able to advance to the last round. “It’s been a difficult weekend so far.
“I really should have been in Q3 today – but I didn’t manage to find as much time as the others in Q2. That was frustrating; the warm-up of my tyres before my quick-lap wasn’t ideal, and I struggled to really pull everything together on the lap.
“Still, the tyres will be difficult and unpredictable for everyone in the race tomorrow. It’s going to a tough race, and a lot will depend on the strategy.
“We can definitely do a good job and score some good points" Said Perez.
And the situation is unlikely to change substantially ahead of next weekend in Bahrain, with McLaren targeting the return to Europe instead for a bigger step.
"We've not made much of a step forward," team boss Martin Whitmarsh said on Saturday in China. "We're the fourth or fifth fastest car.
"We've got an upgrade for Spain now and that's got to take us forward."