McLaren's Jenson Button claims that Red Bull Racing is in for a much stronger challenge for the World Championship this year than it faced in 2010. Button believes that McLaren's stronger than expected start to the new season has put the team in a much better position to win the title than it did last year, when it took the fight to the last race of the campaign.
With McLaren appearing in Malaysia to have slashed the performance advantage that Red Bull Racing started the season with in Australia, Button is fully upbeat about what is now possible for his team.
"We've come here and we do have the possibility to win the race, which is great," said Button in Malaysia. "I think it is very impressive, the step that we have made from the last race to here.
"I personally don't think the Red Bulls have come back to us, I think we have improved the car in terms of setup because the car was still very young in Melbourne. That is my personal feeling, and we seem to have made a big step compared to the rest of the field.
"Compared to Lewis [Hamilton], Fernando [Alonso] was eight tenths slower – and that is a massive chunk in qualifying – and looking at long-run pace it is similar if not a little bit more. So it is exciting going into this season being where we are. We are more competitive than we were in 2010 at this point, we are closer to Red Bull and that is very exciting."
Teammate Hamilton, who starts on the front row in Malaysia alongside pole position man Sebastian Vettel, thinks that the big step he and McLaren must make this year is in finishing more races.
"I want to make sure I finish every race," he said. "Last year, Jenson, apart from one or two races – one where he was taken out and the other a mechanical failure – finished the races.
"I think I had four or five DNFs, a majority of which were through incidents and a few other were mechanical problems. We want to try to avoid those because without those we would have had a much better chance of winning the championship. So that is our focus, consistency and, of course if we can win while doing that, fantastic."