The Brit has had a tough start to his season at the four fly away races. The McLaren MP4-28 has improved since its debut in Australia but the car is not where the team want it to be. They currently lie sixth in the constructors standings with 23 points, split 13/10 for Button and Perez.
Speaking in a team statement looking ahead to the fifth round of the season, Button said “The start of the European season in Spain always feels like a fresh start to the year. Suddenly, you’re back in Europe, the motorhomes and transporters are all lined up in the paddock, and it feels like a second home for everyone.”
The circuit feels like “home” due to its frequent use as a test track, two of the three winter tests took place at the Circuit de Catalunya and Button hopes that returning to the track will give them a strong benchmark to judge their progression.
“It’s been difficult for the team to make consistent progress through the first four races, but I think returning to a circuit where we undertook two of the pre-season tests will give us a useful benchmark of our progress so far.”
The 33-year-old stated that despite talk of the upgrades being brought to Barcelona being hugely important, in his view they are just a series of “continuous improvements” that they make “across the season.” He added “As always, there’ll be elements of it that work, elements that perhaps work in a different way to what we’d anticipated, and elements that don’t work, or perhaps require further work. That’s life in modern Formula 1.”
He admitted that he is “pragmatic” about what the team will discover at the Circuit de Catalunya, continuing to say “Of course, I’m hopeful that it’ll move us a step closer towards the destination.”
Sergio Perez is also looking forward to returning to the European racing scene, saying “I’m looking forward to having my first European race for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. The Circuit de Catalunya is a place all grand prix drivers know well because we do a lot of miles there in the winter.”
He revealed that the circuit will be very helpful to test the cars aerodynamic upgrades but also that the team has lots of past data that will come in handy and help to read how they have progressed since testing there in February and March. “It’ll be a good place to test the car as it’s a very demanding circuit aerodynamically. We have a lot of historic data from our testing there and we’ll get a good read on our performance when we start testing next Friday.”
The Mexican knows the demands of the circuit well, saying “It’s quite a demanding circuit aerodynamically, too, so it should be a very useful weekend for is in terms of understanding the MP4-28 and the direction forwards that we choose to take.”
However the Spanish circuit is renowned for its lack of overtaking and in the past it has produced some rather processional races. Perez hopes that the introduction of two DRS zones will spice up the action. “I hope that the introduction of two DRS zones at Barcelona will help improve the racing. We saw in both China and Bahrain that Formula 1 cars can race really closely if they are under the right conditions; Barcelona has always been a difficult circuit for overtaking, so I hope the new regulations will improve matters. it would be great for the thousands in the grandstands if there were some spectacular overtaking along the main straight.”
Martin Whitmarsh can’t believe almost a quarter of the season has gone by already. Speaking in the statement he said “The pace of life in Formula 1 never relents, ant it’s incredible to think that our return to Europe next week will see a quarter of the 2013 championship already gone.”
He described the form at the start of the season as “volatile” and “unpredictable”, comparing it to last year’s Spanish Grand Prix which saw Pastor Maldonado unexpectedly win. Whitmarsh, who is Team Principal of McLaren, added “While it would be difficult to see another left-field runner emerging as a contender for victory, the formbook is still hard to read.”
Giving insight into the hard work back at the factory, he said “We are pushing ahead to develop the MP4-28, and will be hoping for a productive weekend that will allow us to gather a useful data set for the races ahead.”
They have yet to challenge for the race victories but the Woking based squad certainly have the resources, drivers and team members to return to the front. When that happens though is a different story.
Image courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes