McLaren MP4-27 'feels right' says Jenson Button


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The Independent Online

Jenson Button is convinced he has "a good base" on which to build a more solid start to the new Formula One season.

Button yesterday had the honour of being the first to put the new McLaren, the MP4-27, through its paces at the Circuito de Jerez in southern Spain.

Compared to a year ago - when McLaren ran last season's car for the first time in Jerez, which staged the second test - Button was all smiles.

Last February the team soon realised they had blundered with the novel concept of their exhaust that put them on the back foot.

A year on, and after completing 60 laps, Button was a happy man - in particular as there were no issues with balance and grip, the kind of areas that usually plague new cars.

"There are no niggly areas with the car, which is nice. It's quite different to last year," Button said.

"There's obviously work we need to do to improve it, but it feels right, which is good.

"You're never going to start off with a perfect car, but I feel it is more together, and it feels a very good base for the coming days."

The feeling for Button was like night and day in comparison to last year, and he is already predicting a very closely-fought start to the new campaign which starts in Australia on March 18.

"Last year we had reliability issues with the exhaust," Button said.

"For one lap it felt like you could get something out of the car, but then the degradation (of the tyres) was massive. We knew that from the word go.

"So yes, it does feel very different to testing last year, which is a good thing really because it's not like we can stick on an exhaust that will give us two seconds at the first race.

"The regulations are very different now, so I think you are going to see the cars a lot more bunched up this season - especially at the start of the year when racing gets under way.

"As we improve throughout the season the field will split a little more, but at the start you are going to have a lot of cars within a few tenths (of a second).

"That's great for the sport. It just makes it a little more complicated and difficult for us."

Button finished eighth on the timesheet, almost two seconds down on the returning Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus, although timings are irrelevant where testing is concerned.

Raikkonen, though, also appeared to be relatively content with his day's work in the E20.

"It was a positive first day and everything went almost to plan," said the 2007 world champion.

"We had no major issues and I got a good feel for the car and the tyres, and I'm happy with the balance, which feels good.

"I also did more than a race distance and didn't have any physical problems at all, which is good, so now I'm looking forward to making further progress with the car tomorrow."

Paul di Resta completed 101 laps in his Force India and was second to Raikkonen, with Red Bull's Mark Webber fourth quickest and Felipe Massa ninth in his Ferrari.