In an interview with ESPN F1 today, Jenson Button hopes strategy and not a lack of pace was to blame for his disappointing thirteenth place at the Chinese Grand Prix.
The McLaren-Honda team fitted fresh medium tyres to Button’s car after the deployment of the safety car in China at a time most of its rivals switched to softs, making for a painful stint against cars on a quicker compound. If strategy cannot be blamed, Button in his interview with ESPN F1 today, thinks the result is proof McLaren is simply not quick enough to be challenging for points on a regular basis. Button said the following:-
‘After the safety car we put on the medium and I’m not sure it was the right [choice], we’ll have to look at the data. Everyone else was on the soft tyre and it was just really, really difficult in terms of pace. We’ll have to see if that was the right tyre to have on the car or not. If it wasn’t then we had a chance of battling into the points, but if it was the right choice then we’re still away from the points.
‘Then we put that [super-soft] tyre on at the end trying to do a two-stop but it didn’t look like it was ever going to work. We could have stayed out on the medium but I was in 11th and I thought I’d rather have some fun but the option tyre just disintegrated after about three laps.
‘But anyway, we weren’t in the points. Hopefully we made the wrong strategy call putting on the medium because if we didn’t we’re not quick enough to be in the points at the moment, because nothing else went wrong so I’m hoping that was the wrong choice and we made a mistake there. Maybe our pace just isn’t good enough, or make it was the wrong choice of tyre, we’ll have to have a look.’
From what Button has stated in his interview today, I believe McLaren did use the incorrect strategy as at certain points in the race, Button showed that he can race as well as other midfield teams such as Toro Rosso and Force India. But at the end of the day, the team made a decision that did not pay for them and all they can do is analyse the data, see what happened and take steps to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
But overall, the fact that Button ran as high as fourth in the Chinese GP today shows that McLaren-Honda have made slow, gradual and positive steps to get more pace and performance out of their car and power unit. There might be a way to go still; but everything is starting to come together slowly and let’s hope that they use the information gathered from today to keep on developing their car throughout the rest of the season ahead.