Jenson Button believes that this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix will provide McLaren's best chance of out-qualifying Red Bull in 2011.
Red Bull drivers have been on pole position for every race this year while the Q3 gap from the polesitter to the best of the McLarens has been at least half a second everywhere except Malaysia, and reached the 1sec mark in Spain last weekend. However, the 2009 World Champion believes that the specific demands of the Monaco circuit, which is far less aero-dependent than many regular circuits, could play to the strengths of the MP4-26, which has had race pace to match Red Bull recently.
Asked whether McLaren had made any progress in its bid to slash the gap to its rival team, Button said: "No. They're just so fast in qualifying, but nobody really knows why. We feel that they have a lot more downforce than us, and looking at the pace difference [in qualifying], it's like 30 points of downforce. You're not going to do that [reduce such a margin] in six or seven races.
"I can't see us beating them in qualifying in the near future unless it's a very unusual circumstance, like perhaps in Monaco."
Button, the Monaco winner in 2009, said that he has been pleased with his performances in qualifying this year relative to his teammate Lewis Hamilton, despite starting ahead of his compatriot only once since last year's Japanese Grand Prix.
"I wanted to work with the team to find a car I was really comfortable with in qualifying and really be able to push it to the limits, and I'm quite happy," he added. "I've been out-qualified by Lewis 4-1 and if you look at that, it doesn't look great, but I'm actually happy with it."
"At the last race he got me by three hundredths, so that's very close. He's just had the edge in qualifying, but the feeling I have in the car makes me much more comfortable and I've definitely had a better consistency in qualifying this year – exactly what you need over a long season."