Button positive about future for McLaren-Honda

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Jenson Button remains confident that the future for the newly-rekindled McLaren-Honda partnership is very bright despite enduring a difficult start to the 2015 Formula 1 season.

McLaren and Honda famously worked together in the late 1980s and early 1990s as Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost dominated the sport, claiming four drivers’ championship and four constructors’ titles.

However, the Japanese manufacturer’s return to F1 in 2015 as an engine supplier has been a difficult one, with Button finishing two laps down on race winner Lewis Hamilton at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The Briton retired last time out in Malaysia alongside teammate Fernando Alonso, but explained in today’s FIA press conference ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix that the team is making rapid progress.

“I think for the outside world, they probably didn’t think we made a big step from Melbourne to Malaysia but we did,” Button said. “It was very, very big. We weren’t able to finish the race but we got a lot of useful information, again for another big step forwards.

“I feel we still haven’t got the best out of what we have right now, so hopefully we can do that this weekend – and there’s a lot in the pipeline for the future.

“A lot of people have asked me how I’m so positive and how the team are so positive and upbeat, and it is because we see a great future. It’s just a lot of hard work now improving before we can get there.”

Button went on to explain how having an experienced driver such as Alonso alongside him has been invaluable in aiding the development of the car, giving the Briton hope that points aren’t far away for McLaren.

“For us two to be competitive, like any team-mates in Formula 1, it’s important for us to improve and to make big strides forwards,” Button said.

“It’s great having such an experienced driver in the other car. Hopefully that’s going to help us, first of all get into the points and then hopefully challenge for something better in the future.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.