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Page last updated at 17:34 GMT, Saturday, 19 February 2011

Jenson Button says it is too early to write off McLaren

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at the Circuit de Catalunya

Jenson Button
Button believes the McLaren will improve before the start of the season

Jenson Button says it is too early to judge the pace of the new McLaren after a troubled start to its life.

McLaren have been hit by reliability problems in testing and lagged behind rivals Red Bull and Ferrari on pace.

Button said: "I still don't know where we stand. It's unfair to judge us because the amount of laps that we have done has not been massive."

Earlier, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso had said world champions Red Bull would again be the team to beat in 2011.

Button was 1.6 seconds slower than Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel's fastest time at the pre-season test in Barcelona on Saturday.

The 31-year-old Englishman said it was almost impossible to judge the relative pace of cars in testing because teams do not reveal which of the four types of tyre they are running or how much fuel the cars have on board.

Ferrari does look competitive in terms of consistency and the Red Bull looks pretty good but not as good as the Ferrari

Jenson Button

But he admitted that some lessons could be drawn and that the Ferrari and Red Bull had produced the most eye-catching performance so far.

"Do you really think the Ferrari is six tenths slower than the Red Bull?" Button said, in reference to the headline lap times on Saturday.

"And the Ferrari on the long runs seem to be two seconds quicker than everyone else.

"There are so many things going on and in testing it's so difficult to get an understanding anyway.

"The soft compared to the hard tyre is one and a half seconds quicker and if someone has the super-soft here it's another second.

"So it's very difficult to know the pace of people and what they're doing.

"What is interesting is people's consistency - that's when you can really see if they have a good car.

"Ferrari does look competitive in terms of consistency but so do a lot of others and the Red Bull looks pretty good but not as good as the Ferrari."

Button insisted that the new McLaren, one of the more adventurous cars in terms of design, had untapped potential.

"We really need some good days of running with Lewis (Hamilton, Button's team-mate) and at the next test to really unlock this car," he said.

"It is exciting and there are a lot of good possibilities with it but we just haven't had time to really work with them."

Alonso, who was third fastest on Saturday, said: "I still believe that, at the moment, the Red Bull is the strongest car, but there are at least four other teams - us, McLaren, Mercedes and Renault - that are capable of fighting for the wins.

"We all know that Red Bull should be ahead of everybody. So we expect Red Bull to be very competitive.

Fernando Alonso
So far testing has been a good surprise for us with no big problems in the car

Fernando Alonso (above)

"But it will be two or three races before we can say for sure. There is a lot to come from Ferrari as well."

Alonso led the championship going into the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi last year but a strategic error by his Ferrari engineers ruined Alonso's race and allowed Vettel in to collect his maiden title.

While the Spaniard has once again set his sights on Red Bull, Alonso shrugged off suggestions he should already be worried by the champions' smooth performance so far in pre-season testing.

"No, not too much," Alonso said. "There is completely zero information about what the others are doing so we are not to worry.

"If you put 10 kilos less (fuel) in the tank you do different timed laps or if you do long runs with the hard tyre it looks a little bit better [than with] the soft.

"To see how competitive we are, we need to wait until the first two or three races.

"So far testing has been a good surprise for us with no big problems in the car.

"We have put a lot of mileage on the car, everything is running well and at the moment it feels OK for us."

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see also
Vettel sets searing pace at test
19 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Behind the scenes at F1 testing
19 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Barcelona F1 test photos
20 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
F1 test - day two as it happened
19 Feb 11 |  Formula 1

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