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Button: McLaren Honda closer, but full potential still not revealed

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It’s all a matter of perspective when it comes to results, and 12th and 13th with all 22 cars running is still better than where McLaren Honda was this time last year, Jenson Button said on Thursday.

The 2009 World Champion and teammate Fernando Alonso have shown signs of progress this year with the Chinese Grand Prix their best race to date. Alonso returned well after missing the Bahrain Grand Prix following his accident in Australia to start the year.

Button noted that compared to last year, when the McLarens were barely ahead of the Manor Marussia team, now they’re clear of four or five teams.

Understandably though, McLaren Honda isn’t in it to finish 12th and 13th, and the point Button made Thursday during the FIA Press Conference was that qualifying still needs to be better.

“[We’re] not doing a good enough job possibly,” Button admitted. “I think the last race, if you look at it – it’s very difficult for a driver, because you come home 12th and 13th and it’s not where you want to be – but if you look at it compared to last year, every car finished in China. So it’s a big step forward to last year in China.

“In terms of where I think we are, yeah, our qualifying pace has been reasonable but I still don’t think we have shown our true potential in qualifying either. We have been close to Q3.

“Yeah, it’s moving forward but you always want more, you always want more. Formula One is so competitive right now. For us I feel that having something new coming every race, aerodynamically and also with the power unit, it’s moving in the right direction, but we always want more. I think when we start scoring points on a regular basis we’ll be a lot happier, but that hasn’t happened.”

Button did say the Honda power unit is closer to the rest of the field this year.

“It’s very difficult to know what ‘nearly’ means,” he said. “I think we’re very happy with the way the deployment is this year, compared to last year. We’re a lot close to the other manufacturers, which is great.

“In terms of outright power, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone really knows, but we know there is still a lot of work to do and that’s the aim.”

Button managed to finish ninth in Sochi last year.

He and Alonso also turned in one of the funnier pre-race videos courtesy of partner Mobil 1, with a snow covered background on the green screen.  It’s available for your viewing pleasure, below.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).