Jenson Button is convinced that McLaren has a better car than its results so far indicate.
After starting the season as the pace-setters – having locked out the front row in both Australia and Malaysia – Button and team-mate Lewis Hamilton have scored just 10 points between them in the last two races.
But despite that run of form, Button thinks that McLaren’s true pace is not being exploited yet – because it is struggling to understand the intricacies of Pirelli’s 2012 tyres.
“I think we have a strong car, and aerodynamically it is strong, but I don’t think we are able to show it sometimes,” explained Button, ahead of the Monaco GP. “When we do, I think the car is very quick.
“If you look at Lewis’ lap in qualifying [in Spain] and if you look at our race pace in China and Australia, it [the speed] is there, but it is extracting it which is quite difficult sometimes.”
Button reckons that the biggest issue facing himself and his team was trying to get to grips with why the speed of cars is fluctuating so much this year.
“The thing we don’t understand with the tyres is the difference of pace up and down the grid,” he said. “Pastor [Maldonado] qualified 17th in Bahrain, then qualified second in Spain, which got turned into pole. That is what is difficult to understand.
“I don’t think Williams had a massive upgrade compared to everyone else. Understanding why the car works sometimes and doesn’t other times is very difficult to understand. We can do as much set-up work as we like, but engineering wise certain things are supposed to work and they don’t work, which is quite difficult to understand.”
Although the up-and-down season was not what Button had hoped for coming into the campaign, he did admit that the mixed up order this year meant it was not hurting his title challenge too much.
“When different people keep winning and the championship leader finishes fifth it is not such a problem,” he said. “To be fair I’ve only finished three races in the points, and the last one wasn’t really in the points.
“I’ve had a first, a second and a ninth, and that puts me 16 points off the lead, which is nothing. It is amazing how little points everyone is getting this year.
“I think there have been 125 points up for grabs and the leader has 61. So it shows you how mixed up this season is. Obviously we want to be as consistent as possible, but the people who understand the tyres and consistently score good points are going to be there at the end, and we have got to get that consistency.
“Of course we want to be consistently winning but I don’t think anyone is going to be doing that for a while yet.”