In an outspoken hard-hitting editorial ahead of this weekend’s Chinese GP, in which the struggling McLaren-Honda outfit will almost certainly line up at the back of the grid, The Daily Telegraph opined that ‘with nothing left to prove’ Button ought to have quit F1 at the end of 2014 rather than commit to a year of toil as Honda strive to play catch-up after missing the first year of the sport’s new ‘turbo era’.
Both Button and team-mate Fernando Alonso, who was described as ‘the happiest man in motorsport’??two weeks ago even after qualifying a dismal 18th for the Malaysia GP, have retained a remarkably cheery disposition throughout McLaren’s ongoing travails. No matter the setback, of which there have been many even in the opening few months of the year, both drivers have exuded beaming positivity throughout 2015, their sunny demeanour??in stark contrast to their dismal results.
“A lot of people have asked me how l am so positive and how the team is so upbeat and it is because we see a great future,” Button said during Thursday’s press conference at Shanghai.
“There’s a lot in the pipeline for the future. There’s just a lot of hard work and improving [to do] before we get there.”
McLaren are unlikely to reach their desired destination this weekend either, with their small but significant improvement in Malaysia at risk of being reversed around a power-hungry Shanghai circuit that is threatening to expose the horsepower deficiencies of their fragile Honda engine.
“It’s always tricky when you start off having done not a lot of mileage over the winter and for everyone it was a big surprise that we finished in Melbourne. For the outside world, they probably didn’t think we made a big step from Melbourne to Malaysia, but we did – it was very, very big,” added Button.
“We didn’t finish the race but we got a lot of useful information for another big step forward. The very long straight here will make things tricky.”
Despite failing to reach the chequered flag at Sepang, there was a further crumb of comfort for Button in qualifying when he narrowly out-paced new team-mate Alonso. With points-finishes unlikely to be possible for either driver until at least the European leg of the season, the in-house duel between the two former champions has assumed extra resonance.
“When you are fighting at the front or you are fighting at the back, that is when you more concentrate on your performance against the guy who is in the same car,” explained the Englishman. “When you are fighting in the pack, it is very different.”