Jenson Button says McLaren looked stronger than it expected on Friday in Baku but will be pushed back by its rivals as the Grand Prix of Europe weekend goes on.
While McLaren expects to struggle in the race, Button finished FP2 in ninth place with team-mate Fernando Alonso two positions further back. Button is expecting other teams to improve on the Baku City Circuit but is not ruling out an appearance in Q3 following an encouraging start to the weekend.
“I think we’re probably a little bit better here than we expected, but once everyone will get to grips to the track they’ll put us back in our place,” Button said. “There’s still more to come, we’re working out the downforce levels as we’re still not quite there yet.
“On the tyres, the soft seems a good tyre – as always, it seems a good tyre – but we need to make improvements on the supersoft tyre, so there’s work to be done on this area to get it working better [in qualifying] and, especially, on Sunday.
“This is probably the worst circuit in the calendar for us, but if we do a good lap we can still fight for Q3, which is good. But the race will be trickier.”
And Button says the McLaren deficit on the long run from Turn 16 to the first corner highlights how difficult it will be to fight for points in the race.
“In the last sector we were 0.9s off the Mercedes in FP1 and sort of 0.6s off the next best cars. And that’s just the straight, so we’re losing a lot of time there and it’s difficult to know what we can do to make it work for us.
“We can throw the car around in the twisty part of the track but it’s not much fun because it’s slow and we love speed. Turn 14 is a lot more fun, very much on the edge – mad, really – and the last two corners are flat, so if it’s wet it will be scary. Up there it’s so slow that it doesn’t play to a Formula One car’s strengths.
“The car feels pretty OK, but I’m sure it’s very slippery for everybody out there. It’s one of those circuits where if you’ve got a bit of oversteer that becomes a lot of oversteer – it’s never ending. But I think we are in good shape, but even then it will be difficult to get into the top ten.”
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