April 12th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - McLaren's tough season continued today in China, as neither driver troubled the front-runners for pace and Sergio Perez managed to crash in each session. Fortunately the crashes were minor but, worryingly, McLaren were not sure as to the cause of the spin in FP2, which happened while Perez was not pushing.
Button had his own moment on the track, when his left front tyre delaminated after a heavy lock-up at the end of the long back straight. He was lucky to be close to the pitlane at the time, and was able to recover to the McLaren garage without any further drama.
McLaren face an uphill battle to return to the front of the field, after producing a car for this season that is radically different to last year's car. But it is unlikely they will be struggling for too long. The McLaren team is well-known for having an impressive rate of in-season development, and they will certainly be putting all available energy into understanding their complex car.
But for this weekend, it looks unlikely that Button and Perez will challenge for victory. Points are possible, and the first step towards that goal will be strong qualifying tomorrow afternoon.
This is what the team had to say after Friday practice:
Jenson Button: “We can’t yet conclusively tell if the upgrades we brought to this race have improved the car. They’re perhaps not as big a step forward as we’d expected – the issues with the car are still there – but the car does feel a little bit better. We’ve worked very hard over the last few weeks to bring the new parts here – which is great. Today’s been all about putting mileage on those parts; now we need to sit down and look at the data this evening – there’s a lot to look through. I feel we’ll be using the Prime tyre quite a lot in the race. The Option tyre transforms the car completely; over one lap, there’s a lot more grip, but then you start to lose time over each successive lap. My puncture happened after I’d already decided to pit. I got to the braking zone at Turn 14, locked up the front left and the tyre just punctured – there was a hole through it. It’s a good job that corner is just before the pits. I don’t think we’ll be fighting at the front this weekend, but we’ll definitely be fighting someone.”
Sergio Perez: “Today was a difficult day for me, but an important one for the team. I had two offs – in the morning, I was running on cold, worn tyres, locked the wheels and just touched the barrier. went into the barrier. In FP2, we don’t really understand what happened because I wasn’t really pushing at the time. Still, I’m sure we will improve tomorrow. I’ll effectively be starting from zero because I’ll adopt a completely new set-up. That won’t make things easier, but I think we’ve gathered some useful data today and that will ensure we make good progress for the future. The target for tomorrow is to get into Q3. For Sunday, the tyres will play a big role; it’ll be essential to manage the degradation and plot the perfect strategy, but I know the team is very good in these areas, so I’m optimistic. I think we can have a good result on Sunday.”
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: “Today was a very busy day for the whole team – we spent both practice session running lots of tests, evaluating a number of new parts and gathering useful data. It’s too early to say yet whether any of that work is conclusive – there is still an awful lot of data to be analysed by the engineers this evening – but, as always, I’m confident that we will take a step forward in performance tomorrow. It’s clearly been an incident-filled day for Checo, but it’s all useful learning. I’m sure he’ll quickly put it behind him and focus on having a stronger day tomorrow.”