The McLaren Honda Formula One Team had an extremely strong opening day to winter testing at the Barcelona Circuit Du Catalunya in Montmelo on Monday.

Jenson Button was behind the wheel of the MP4-31 completing 84 laps and ending the day in sixth place with a fastest time of 1m 26.735s just ahead of Carlos Sainz in the Toro Rosso.

The team suffered a few minor technical glitches in the morning which caused a brief pause in their programme this morning however once they were rectified Button completed 35 laps before the lunch break.

Speaking following his first day back at the office the 2009 world champion commented by saying:

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.

McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier commented by saying:

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.

Honda R&D Co. Ltd Chief Engineer Satoshi Nakamura commented by saying:

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.

Next up for McLaren is Fernando Alonso who will be in the car on Tuesday.

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