Button lays down an early marker for McLaren

Tue Feb 5, 2013 2:13pm EST
 

By Alan Baldwin

JEREZ, Spain (Reuters) - McLaren gave their rivals something to chew over on Tuesday as Jenson Button kicked off Formula One's pre-season testing with a lap comfortably quicker than anyone else's.

The Briton's first day back in the cockpit was much less dramatic than his 2009 championship year with Brawn GP, when his car was half a second quicker than the rest on its first lap out of the garage, but he still caught the eye despite having a fuel pump problem early on.

Button, who won the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix last November as well as the 2012 opener in Australia, did 37 laps with a best time of one minute 18.861 seconds, 0.848 quicker than the fastest that Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber managed over 73 laps.

It was also nearly two seconds faster than Mercedes, who will have Button's former McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton in the car on Wednesday, after that team suffered electrical problems and cut short the first day.

Testing times are often misleading and largely meaningless at this stage of the year, with teams performing routine systems checks and running through different programs with varying amounts of fuel, but they do carry a feelgood factor.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa, only sixth fastest in the new F138 that the Italian team hopes will banish the memories of a year ago when the 2012 car was painfully off the pace, certainly noticed.

"The 18.8 is an incredible time definitely, but the 19.7 (Webber's time) I don't think so," said the Brazilian, who was at least relieved that his car was a big improvement on last year's.

Webber, whose triple world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel will not be driving until Thursday, agreed the McLaren had made a statement.   Continued...

 
McLaren Formula One drivers Jenson Button of Britain (L) and Sergio Perez of Mexico pose for photographers after unveiling the McLaren MP4-28 car at the company's headquarters in Woking, southern England January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth