Jenson Button 'mentally drained' by McLaren's poor performance

Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton delighted after first race for Mercedes

Just one race into the new Formula One season and the messages coming from the respective camps of British drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button could not be more different.

While Hamilton was happy enough after enjoying a solid debut for Mercedes in Sunday’s opener here, the same cannot be said of Button and his beleaguered McLaren team.

For Hamilton, there is a certain sense of vindication after all the criticism he faced when he announced he was quitting McLaren after 13 years with a team that had nurtured him.

After qualifying third and finishing fifth at Albert Park behind race winner Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus, Hamilton said: “For all of us, we were not expecting to be competing where we were.

“But we could have done better. We definitely had the capability to do better and have a good development platform now, and I am really, really happy with the result.

“I definitely feel the team is flat out, is on it, and we are going in the right direction.”

As for Button, simply scoring his two points for ninth place was “a bonus” as McLaren are yet to understand the car they have developed for this year. Throughout most of the weekend here in Melbourne, team principal Martin Whitmarsh appeared ashen in answering questions about the MP4-28, but was at least honest to admit his marque’s failings.

Button said: “For any team that works so hard through the winter, to arrive at the first race and not have the performance, mentally it is very draining.”

Button also defended Whitmarsh, whose position is potentially in danger after four years in charge without a title, and after overseeing this latest horrendous wrong turn.

Button added: “He is the boss. Everyone looks up to Martin. It’s difficult to always be strong, but he is doing a bloody good job. It is everybody’s job to stay positive. We have to say what we think about the car, that is how it is. We cannot say everything is hunky-dory because it is not.

“We know we have work to do, but we are all very strong within this team, and we work very closely together as a family. There is no finger-pointing. We want to improve, but it is going to be a long journey for us I think.”

That journey has led to speculation McLaren could even resort to resurrecting last year’s car. Asked whether that was a possibility, Whitmarsh said: “It’s not an option for Malaysia [for this weekend’s Grand Prix], no. We have to work hard on this car.”