McLaren thinks it could have found a solution to Jenson Button's recent struggles by identifying subtle issues with his car's setup that it reckons can be resolved for this weekend's European Grand Prix.
Button's form has waned since he finished second in China in April, and the nadir was reached in the last Formula 1 round in Montreal, where he finished only 16th on a day when his teammate Lewis Hamilton won. Those troubles have dropped former championship leader Button to eighth in the standings, 43 points adrift of his series-leading stablemate. However, McLaren's operations director Simon Roberts said on Wednesday that the fact things became so bad in Canada proved key to uncovering the nature of Button's problem.
"I think Canada was very interesting because fundamentally we run the same car for both drivers and they both have the same parts available. Although we allow them to adapt the setup to their driving style, clearly we had something fundamentally different in terms of the tire performance and car performance," said Roberts. "We've been able to actually capitalize on that and there's been a huge amount of work back at the factory analyzing the data and just checking that everything was as we thought it was.
"We're pretty sure at the moment that there was nothing untoward with Jenson's car and actually nothing fundamentally wrong with the setup, but in the subtleties of these cars there are some differences, and I think going to Valencia we are optimistic that we've identified that. I think we can have a slightly different way of getting Jenson's car under him for both qualifying and the race."
Roberts underlined that the changes Button seemed to require to unlock his performance again were not dramatic.
"I'm not going to get into exactly what they were, but they were very, very subtle," he said. "It's not big fundamental stuff like running different aero balance or anything like that. This is absolutely down and buried in the detail.
"You've seen already this year how teams can get right in the sweet spot of the tires or miss it, and I don't think we were far off. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with his setup, but on the day it delivered a very different level of performance. So we think we're nearer to understanding it all.
"Whether we've got it cracked yet, only time will tell. It's a painful but interesting learning exercise for us."