McLaren: We are not in a position to build expectations
For the inaugural day of pre-season testing of 2016, Jenson Button got into the cockpit of the McLaren-Honda MP4-31 for the first time.
The primary focus for the team was establishing the foundations required with a new car: ensuring systems were running correctly, tools were working properly, and data was being collected effectively.
Some necessary checks under the bodywork to investigate a few minor technical glitches caused a brief hiatus early on, but these were rectified quickly, and Jenson put 35 laps on the board in the morning session.
The afternoon allowed us to stretch the legs of the MP4-31 further, with the focus on pit-to-car communications and telemetry functionality, correlation of our new aerodynamic package, and power unit mode tests.
The weather was conducive to a productive day’s running, starting cloudy and chilly but breaking for warm sunshine and blue sky for much of the afternoon.
Jenson completed 84 laps of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and executed a host of valuable evaluations of the new package, which gives the night-shift crew a good basis from which to build a detailed run programme for Fernando tomorrow.
Jenson Button: “I’ve missed Formula 1 massively over the last few months – it seems like the longest break I’ve ever had in my career – so it’s great to be back, to be in the car, and get some laps under my belt. Today has been all about system checks and trying new things – there are lots of differences with this car, and with the engine. The stand-out thing that’s been very positive today is the deployment: it’s been very consistent throughout the day, we had no issues, and it was quite a bit better on long runs than last year. This is good, because it allows us to see other weaknesses in the car that we still need to improve. Overall, a good day actually and I’m reasonably happy. In terms of outright pace, who knows? We’re not going out there to set a lap-time, we’re focussing on checks and having the engineers talk to me, as there’s so many different electronic things that we’re trying out, which is very interesting. We completed five more laps today than we did in the first four days of testing last year, which is definitely an improvement! As long as we can see improvements, and the feeling of the car is good, it’s something to build on.”
Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda racing director, “Today was a solid day; we got some good laps under our belt, which is encouraging for the first day of testing, and an improvement on last year. The first data we have gathered today from the car is positive, as there is clear correlation between the data from the factory and what we have seen on track. Today, just like the next few days, is testing, and we are focussing on just that: testing. It’s imperative to complete all the necessary system checks, gather the required data and correlate the numbers with what we expected from our preparations over the winter. Overall, we are not in a position to build expectations – it’s very early days – but before we think about performance we first need all the tools and data at our disposal. Today was a first step in the right direction, but there’s a long road ahead, and we’re taking it day by day.”
Satoshi Nakamura, Honda R&D Co Ltd chief engineer: “We are pleased to have a solid day’s testing on our first day back. With 84 laps of running, we were able to run through all the necessary power unit system checks, and complete the power unit’s run programme for today. We had niggly sensor issues this morning, but we were able to rectify it quickly, and the long run stints in the afternoon helped us tweak and shape our deployment settings. The feedback received from Jenson today has been positive, so we believe that we are heading in the right direction. We look to continue our step-by-step progress tomorrow.”