Jenson Button is pinning his hopes on McLaren's KERS helping them to close down the advantage of the dominant Red Bull team this weekend, thanks to his team's greater experience of their energy recovery system.
McLaren won twice with their KERS when it was last legal in 2009 and were competitive with it in the season opener in Melbourne two weeks ago. Even though Red Bull elected not to run it on either of their cars there due to technical problems, however, Sebastian Vettel won the race easily from Button's team-mate Lewis Hamilton. But Button believes KERS could help him more on the Sepang circuit's two long straights, especially as the FIA have said that the drag reducing rear wings, designed to help overtaking, may only be activated on the main straight.
"KERS is good for us," Button, the victor here for Brawn without it in his title-winning year in 2009, said yesterday. "We need a powerful KERS to compete against Red Bull because in every other area they are very competitive. At the moment I think we're a long way from them. I get the impression that Seb is yet to show the full potential of that car."
Earlier in the week McLaren's managing director Jonathan Neale cautioned against underestimating Red Bull's ability to make their KERS work here. "I don't know anything about its system," he admitted. "I think from the basis of Mercedes-Benz, which builds our system, with an extra 12 months of experience compared to others, then there should be advantages to do with systems integration and packaging. But that is a very difficult thing to quantify because we don't have any comparative information. I think the one thing that we are all looking for at this stage is to make sure that our cars are as reliable as possible."
Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber dominated this race last year, but acknowledge that they could be at a disadvantage down the long straights if they can't get KERS working this weekend.
"We need to run it tomorrow and see," Webber said. "We haven't tested it since Melbourne. It is the first time it has gone back on the car, so it will give us some more confidence here tomorrow. But it's a no-brainer. You need to get KERS working reliably and well. It's something you should have on the car, especially here."