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McLaren-Honda is making progress: more laps than on 4 Jerez days

Stefan Baldauf
McLaren-Honda is making progress
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E s was a huge difference. Last year, McLaren-Honda was cancerous at the start of the test in Jerez. After four days of testing, there were only 79 laps in total. It was the start of a catastrophic season and ninth place with only 27 points in the constructors' championship.

A year later, the picture looks different. On the first day of testing of the new season, Jenson Button pedaled a total of 84 laps in the new McLaren MP4-31 - far more than a racing distance that corresponds to 66 laps on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. 'The car drives around the course,' joked a visibly relaxed driver after nine hours of work.

McLaren concentrates on system checks

Button was able to collect kilometers over the entire day. Even a few long runs were possible with his new equipment. The program was limited to basic work. 'We mainly concentrated on system checks. It was about unwinding kilometers.' McLaren did not deny real setup work. 'Whenever there was a problem with the balance, we played with the front wing. No more.' FloViz paint on the stern indicated that the engineers were looking at airflow. The viscous liquid makes it easy to understand the course of the flow.

The 2009 champion only had positive things to say about his car. 'I haven't found any negative points yet.' Above all, the delivery of electrical power, one of the major weaknesses of the Honda drive unit from last year, worked significantly better. 'We lost mainly in the long runs in 2015. About four to five tenths of a second because we couldn't consistently call up our performance. That's much better now. We played a lot with the provision of the power output today. It's good to see that that the hard work over the winter seems to pay off, 'summed up Button.

McLaren also benefits on the chassis side thanks to the better and more constant power output of the electric power. 'We can see our weak points so much better. For example, whether we have too much air resistance, which puts pressure on top speeds. Or other things,' explains the veteran.

Stefan Baldauf
The McLaren mechanics painted the rear of the MP4-31 with FloViz .

Button for better cockpit protection

The Englishman could not and did not want to quantify how big the step is. Especially since the Honda V6 does not yet correspond to the status that is to come in Melbourne. 'We'll be driving a different engine there. So it's difficult to judge its performance.' Reliability seems to be going in the right direction. Problems only arose elsewhere. 'The radio and telemetry failed for us once.'

In the timing table, Button was in sixth position. He set his best time with the soft tires in 1: 26.735 minutes. The gap to Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari was almost 1.8 seconds. 'When we look at the fastest times, it looks like we're miles behind. But it's not.' But Button admits: 'Of course we won't have the fastest car here in the test drives. And probably not for the whole year either. But as long as we make progress, it's good. If we could fight for the podium, it would be a massive step . '

Button was not only happy about his new car, but also that the long break of 12 weeks is finally over. 'It felt like the longest I've ever had in my career.' Button does not think that Formula 1 has reached a historic low, as thrown into the room by Bernie Ecclestone. 'He's still here quite a lot, isn't he?' He asks and immediately puts another question on. 'Was Formula 1 ever in bad shape? When several drivers died in one season, those were the worst times.'

Which brings us to the subject of safety. Some drivers are in favor of better cockpit protection for 2017. Currently, the 'halo' is favored, which rests on a stilt on the front of the cockpit and extends over two brackets towards the side walls. 'If it contributes to safety, I'm for it,' Positioned Button.

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