Jenson Button this morning set the fastest time of all in the final practice session before qualifying tomorrow for the Australian Grand Prix.
After a winter of discontent from the Woking team, the times will go some way to restoring their confidence, although most observers believe Red Bull and Ferrari are yet to show their full pace.
Button told the BBC that he was nevertheless happy with today’s work.
“Reliability something we’ve not had all winter, so to have a car that runs for as many laps as we want it to is very satisfying,” he said.
“It also means we can get stuck into our set-up work and improve the car. I don’t think there’s much to be gained from looking at today’s times though, so I’m not going to get too carried away. The new exhaust has definitely brought performance to the car – it feels much better, makes the handling more ‘complete’. When you have downforce at the rear, you can also add it at the front, and then you put temperature in the tyres – there’s so much that comes with downforce.”
His team mate Lewis Hamilton was cautiously optimistic as well.
“The grip level today felt like a big step forward,” he confirmed. “We don’t know what fuel loads the others are running, but our car feels like a big improvement from where we were just a few weeks ago.”
Elsewhere in the session, Fernando Alonso was third fastest in the Ferrari, while the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were fourth and fifth respectively.
All the other teams managed to get out on track at some point, even HRT, for whom it had looked doubtful.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.854s 32
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.986s + 0.132 31
3. Alonso Ferrari 1m26.001s + 0.147 28
4. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m26.014s + 0.160 35
5. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m26.283s + 0.429 33
6. Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.590s + 0.736 31
7. Massa Ferrari 1m26.789s + 0.935 34
8. Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.101s + 1.247 39
9. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m27.280s + 1.426 34
10. Rosberg Mercedes 1m27.448s + 1.594 23
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m27.525s + 1.671 31
12. Petrov Renault 1m27.528s + 1.674 29
13. Heidfeld Renault 1m27.536s + 1.682 22
14. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m27.697s + 1.843 30
15. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m28.095s + 2.241 35
16. di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m28.376s + 2.522 33
17. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m28.583s + 2.729 31
18. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m29.386s + 3.532 29
19. Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m30.829s + 4.975 22
20. Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m30.912s + 5.058 23
21. D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m32.106s + 6.252 36
22. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m32.135s + 6.281 30
23. Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth No time 1
All Timing Unofficial