McLaren race driver Jenson Button is placing high hopes in a new set of option tyres for today’s race, evidenced in his comments after qualifying at the Catalunya Circuit on Saturday.
“To be P8 and have saved a tire… I don’t think anyone else has, so that’s quite nice”, the British driver said.
The Barcelona track is notorious for being tough on tyres and as such, saving a set of options may be able to give McLaren the edge it needs. According to Pirelli, the soft tyre is eight tenths faster than its harder counterpart which is quite a significant improvement. Naturally, teams will do all they can to keep their drivers on the faster tyre for as long as possible. Three stop strategies will probably be seen, but two stops may also be possible, depending on how well degradation and wear are managed. The critical factor of course, will be the timing of the pit stops.
Button qualified in 8th place with a time of 1:27.335, a full 2.103 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton in P1. Nonetheless, the former world champion remained positive (if unsure) about the Woking outfit’s chances on Sunday.
“We could have found a little bit more with the set up, but it’s not bad at all. We’re still nowhere near where we want to be, but you don’t make massive steps in F1 these days”.
Jenson also lamented the car’s handling.
“There’s still too much understeer,” he repeated a few times, and this was something that hampered his efforts to get a good flying lap time on Q3 after Vettel’s red flag. On the strategy front however, it was clear the team was still making up it’s mind on the best angle of attack.
“We’re still not sure what to do, with the way the circuit is. At the moment there is pretty good grip out there and reasonably good degradation.”
With rain falling overnight however, the track has probably shifted back to a higher degradation surface. Although the GP2 races this morning will have laid down some rubber, the rainfall my possibly change teams’ strategies somewhat.
Button added: “There’s going to be lots of sliding, front and rear I think. We’re still not sure what stops to do really but I’m really happy that we’ve saved an option tyre, I think that’s quite important.”
Ever the optimist, Jenson finished on a high note.
“Tomorrow is another day.”