McLaren Honda’s Jenson Button had an extremely strong day in the MP4-31 on Wednesday as the 2009 world champion completed 121 laps and ended the day in fifth place with a fastest time of 1m 25.183s.

A small suspension issue halted the team’s progress just before lunch however they were able to rectify it and Button was able to complete his programme. Speaking following his day in the car he commented by saying:

The important thing is that we’ve been able to do quite a few laps over the last two days – we know we need to keep pushing in terms of reliability so that we can reduce any niggly problems at the first race. In terms of set-up work this afternoon, it was quite difficult because it was so windy out there, and I don’t think it was just us that were affected.

“The package seems to be running smoothly and you can feel a difference from last year, which is positive. There’s still a lot of work to do over the two days we have left, for us to feel that we are really ready for the first race. In terms of the electronics and understanding the driver switch settings for the race start, that’s all sorted, but we haven’t done a lot of the more general set-up work, in order to really fine-tune the car.

“This is the biggest improvement in the power unit that I’ve felt in the last 14 months. The progress with the deployment has been massive – Honda has done a great job over the winter and we’ve had no reliability issues with it during testing so far. Honda has been working very closely with Mobil1 and Esso and I think they’ve made a good step forward, but there’s a lot more that we need to achieve before we are competitive.

“In testing it’s very difficult to judge how quick people are, but we need some big gains in order to really get closer to the front. There are still areas which need some attention, so hopefully over the next two days we can do lots of laps, spend time on the new tyres, learn more about the car and find a set-up that works for us, because we’re not there yet.

Fernando Alonso will be back in the car on Thursday before Jenson Button returns to the cockpit for the final day of testing on Friday. Speaking about the on track action, McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier commented by saying:

It’s satisfying to get so many laps done today. We’ve been able to debug the car and the engine and find some useful information in order to develop the car ahead of Australia. As I’ve said before, testing is testing and we are here to do just that; it’s the best opportunity we have to work on reliability and integration of our new components before we go racing.

“There isn’t much to read into the timesheets at the moment, as we haven’t yet turned our attention to the performance of the package. However, the numbers we can read from the track show the car is behaving as we predicted. We’re gradually bringing more new parts over the final two days of the test, so it’s going to be a heavily updated chassis by the time we get to Australia. If the correlation is good with these too, it will be a positive step.

“In terms of the power unit, the slightly updated version we have been running since yesterday is a step forward compared to last week, but it’s still very early days, and we need to do a lot more mileage with it before we can exploit it to its full potential.

Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project and Executive Chief Engineer Yusuke Hasegawa commented by saying:

Our main focus for today’s running was to set up Jenson’s car for the first race in Australia, and finish then the remainder of our planned run programme. During these simulations, the power unit side was working hard to set up and finalise the many engine modes for the race. We are fairly satisfied with the results of the data setting today.

“From tomorrow onwards, we are hoping to test race distance running, and then use this data for even more analysis.

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