Jenson Button says that learning from mistakes will be key for McLaren as it finalizes its 2012 car design, after last winter's exhaust debacle.
McLaren's 2011 contender started out with a radical exhaust layout, but it proved uncompetitive and unreliable in winter testing, and after a troubled build-up the system was shelved prior to the opening race. Lewis Hamilton then qualified and finished second in the season opener despite the new, simplified, exhaust having not been tested prior to the Melbourne weekend.
Although McLaren has won four races this season, it has been unable to challenge Red Bull's domination of the championship, and Button believes that had his team managed to use winter testing more productively, this might not have been the case.
"Next year I really don't know how good we're going to be at this moment in time," he said. "Everyone starts building their cars earlier and earlier for the next season, and for us to say we're going to do a better job than anyone else – how can we judge that? Ferrari are saying they're going to rule Formula 1 for the next 300 years or something, but I don't know how quick we're going to be next year.
"I hope that we're competitive and I think we've learned a lot this season in terms of trying new things over the winter and being ready for the first test and not wasting time over the testing period – because basically all the testing for us over the winter was pointless in a way.
"We put on the exhaust system at the first race and it was great. But maybe if we started with that exhaust system and we'd spent three weeks of testing with it we could have improved it even further and we could've come to the first race and won it. It's definitely taking calculated risks over the winter when it comes to new parts like the exhaust, which was become such a big part of the car this year."
Button added that while McLaren's 2011 car has not turned out to be a title contender, he feels extremely comfortable driving it and is confident of a very strong end to the season following his win in Hungary and charge from 13th to third at Spa.
"I'm very happy with the car and confident in the direction we've taken with it," he said. "The balance of the car's nice and I feel that it suits my style, which is good. Sometimes you don't get the balance you want on a grand prix weekend, but you just have to get it right more often than not.
"I feel it's going to continue this weekend. I have the confidence in the car to really throw it around, which is maybe the biggest thing which is different from previous seasons, and I think that will show in qualifying over the next few races.
"I'm very happy with what I'm doing with the car, and I think with the tools I have available to me, I'm doing the best job I can. I'm really enjoying it as well, which is massively important."