Jenson Button has conceded to enduring a “mentally very tough” first half of the Formula 1 season with McLaren.
After four years of winning races and fighting at the front, Button has had to revert back to a midfield role given the lack of performance of this year’s car.
The 33-year-old’s best result this season was a fifth place in the Chinese Grand Prix, while team-mate Sergio Perez’s high was sixth in Bahrain.
The Woking-based team have made no secret of the fact they took a wrong turn with the car in the development stage, and there has since been no magic wand to right the wrongs.
Said Button: “For both Sergio and me it’s been a difficult season. McLaren is known for being at the front, fighting for race wins, and definitely fighting for podiums pretty much every grand prix. So when you don’t have that it’s mentally very tough.
“Although the start of the season was difficult for us, as it was for the whole team, I really do feel we have grown together and improved.
“I’ve had bad seasons before, so I know how tough it can be, but for McLaren it’s something that doesn’t happen very often.
“But it’s really helped us because you fine tune every single detail when you are in that position, to get every hundredth of a second out of every part on the car. I feel when we have a competitive car we will be ready for it.”
In making the move from Sauber last season, Perez spoke of winning the world title this year. Now the Mexican echoes Button’s sentiments in reflecting on “a really tough year” to date.
“It has been difficult to get to know the car. From the first time I drove it in Jerez [at the first test] to now it has changed completely,” said Perez. “Every weekend we make steps on a Friday, trying a lot of things, so then on a Saturday we are starting with a completely new car.
“But my understanding of the team has grown. I’m in a good position to maximise the full potential of the car, exploring it and its limits more, trying to get the most out of every single detail.
“We are getting very strong and with my group of engineers I’m getting very strong, but with a lot of room to improve.”