Jenson Button remained upbeat despite finishing as the lowest classified driver in yesterday’s Australian Grand Prix in 11th place.
McLaren’s woeful start to life with Honda power units continued in Melbourne as Kevin Magnussen failed to make the start of the race following an engine failure on his installation lap.
Running with a tuned-down engine, Button eventually finished the race in 11th place as the last classified finisher, two laps down on race winner Lewis Hamilton.
The 2009 world champion was the only driver to finish the race that did not score points, but he was pleased to have even completed all 58 laps in Australia.
“Today has been a good day,” Button said on Sunday. “We’re still a long way off, but this is a good starting point, and I enjoyed the race. I even had a good little battle with Checo [Perez].
“Today also really helps in terms of development: if we’d done three laps, we’d have learned nothing, so we’ve learned a massive amount by completing a race distance.”
Button believes that the small steps being made by McLaren can give the team momentum in the coming weeks as it continues to get to grips with the new Honda engines.
“There’s a lot of work still needed – on power, driveability, downforce and set-up – but we can make big strides,” Button said. “And, by improving one area, it tends to snowball; more and more areas start to improve, too.
“There were more positives: we’re as quick as the Force Indias in the corners, and we look similar in speed through the corners to the Red Bulls and Saubers, too.
“It’s been a tough winter – our longest run in testing was just 12 laps, so today’s 58-lap run was a good step forward – but we know we’ve got a lot of work to do. But, with all of today’s learning, there are many areas we can improve for the next race.”
Button is set to be rejoined at McLaren by Fernando Alonso for the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Spaniard was forced to miss the race in Australia following an accident during pre-season testing, but is now back in training and is widely expected to be fit to race in Sepang at the end of the month.