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Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Saturday, 13 March 2010

Sluggish McLaren car in Bahrain worries Jenson Button

Lewis Hamilton

McLaren qualifying reaction from Bahrain

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Bahrain

World champion Jenson Button said he was surprised McLaren were so far off the pace in qualifying for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

He and team-mate Lewis Hamilton were both more than a second slower than the pole lap of Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel after qualifying on Saturday.

"It's a big margin," said Button, who starts eighth, four places behind Hamilton. "It's a bit of a surprise.

"I was disappointed to be eighth but we can find time in the car."

McLaren had appeared to be performing strongly over the four pre-season tests but were lagging behind both Red Bull and Ferrari when the teams revealed their genuine pace in the first qualifying session of 2010.

Both our drivers did a good job but we just weren't quick enough

Martin Whitmarsh

Vettel took pole position for Red Bull in a sizzling one minute 54.101 seconds to edge out Ferrari duo Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.

McLaren arrived in Bahrain with an innovative - though controversial - ventilation flap to increase speed down the straights, but the car is lacking performance in the corners, team principal Martin Whitmarsh admitted.

"We don't seem to have enough downforce here," he said.

"We were lacking in grip, struggled with the middle section and we didn't deal with the bump on Turn Six which made it difficult for our guys.

"Both our drivers did a good job but we just weren't quick enough. We don't look fast enough to deserve victory here but that doesn't mean we won't stop trying.

"The performance differential between full to empty tanks is five seconds so we'll see what happens when the cars have heavier fuel loads on board."

Jenson Button
Button expressed disappointment at qualifying down in eighth place

The ban on in-race refuelling means teams are having to manage dual strategies for qualifying and the race, as they need low fuel for all-out speed on Saturday but will be loaded up to the hilt with about 160kg for Sunday's grand prix.

Button is hopeful McLaren will be more competitive in the race, especially as Red Bull are considered likely to be harsher on their tyres and question marks remain over their reliability.

"A second in qualifying is a huge chunk but in race trim I think the car will be working very differently," said Button, who was 1.571secs behind Vettel.

"I don't think we'll get the same result, with heavy fuel loads we'll see a different line-up than in qualifying.

"I struggled with the balance during qualifying but those issues can be solved for tomorrow.

"We've got a good car when it comes to running with higher fuel loads so it's not all over yet and I think we can have an exciting race."


Hamilton was also staying positive after qualifying 1.116secs adrift of Vettel's time at the Sakhir circuit.

The 2008 champion said he is confident McLaren's MP4-25 car can soon match the front-runners.

"It's a much, much better start than last year when we were two seconds off the pace," said Hamilton.

"We're not that far off and I'm sure at other circuits there won't be such a big gap.

"I was surprised and pleased with fourth. It's a good starting point for the season - and for the race."

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see also
Vettel stuns Ferrari to grab pole
13 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying result
18 Feb 10 |  Results
Bahrain Grand Prix Saturday photos
13 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Bahrain GP qualifying as it happened
13 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Schumacher keen to 'raise game'
12 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Winning start is vital - Button
11 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
All-clear for McLaren wing design
12 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Brawn thrilled by new F1 season
09 Mar 10 |  Formula 1

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