Button: 100 laps felt like 1,000 to McLaren on Friday

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After a troublesome F1 winter testing period, Jenson Button stated that the 100 laps that he completed on Friday in Barcelona felt like 1,000 to McLaren as it continues to learn about its new car.

The British team reunited with engine supplier Honda for the 2015 season, but has encountered a number of teething problems and issues with the power unit throughout winter testing.

However, McLaren appeared to make a breakthrough on Friday as Button completed 100 laps and posted a respectable lap time, marking what was by far the team’s best day of winter testing so far.

Although Button did encounter an electrical issue that forced him to stop out on track on his 101st lap, the Briton was delighted with the running and progress being made at McLaren.

“For most teams, 100 laps isn’t really anything, but for us it’s like 1,000 laps because there’s so much for us still to learn about this package,” Button explained.

“Reliability has been great today, a really, really big step forward and big effort by everyone which is great to see.

“It’s amazing what you get done when you have a reliable car. All of the tests that you can do, the comparisons, the aero work that you can’t do because the car stop because the car stops halfway through, we were able to do today. All the engineers and aerodynamicists are getting their teeth into what they’ve done today which is good.”

Button finished the day fifth in the final classification with a fastest lap time of 1:25.590. However, the Briton believes McLaren can build on this over the next two days of testing in Barcelona.

“Looking at the timing screens, we’re nowhere near quick enough,” Button said. “There’s a lot of progress that has been made today that we can improve on for the next couple of days.

“Where do I think we are? I think we’ve made good progress but there’s still a long way to go. There’s a lot work with in terms of the way the car feels, but I’ve not really done a massive amount of setup work even today.

“There’s still a lot of work needed to really hone the car to the way that I drive. That’s why I need a good day on Sunday. The feeling is reasonably good, but a work in progress definitely. We’re definitely not where we want to be.”

Kevin Magnussen has taken over driving duties for McLaren on Saturday, replacing Fernando Alonso following the Spaniard’s accident last Sunday.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

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Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.