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Mat Coch writes:
McLaren pulled out all the stops after the Canadian Grand Prix to understand why Jenson Button was so far off the pace of teammate and race winner Lewis Hamilton. According to Simon Roberts, the team's Operation Director, it was a process that has borne fruit.
"Canada was very interesting because fundamentally we run the same car for both drivers," he said in the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-In. "Clearly we had something fundamentally different in terms of the tyre performance and the car performance.
"There's nothing untoward with Jenson's car and actually nothing fundamentally wrong with the set-up but in the subtlety of these cars there are differences," he explained. "I'm not going to go in to exactly what they were but they are very, very subtle. This isn't big stuff like fundamentally running different aero balance it's absolutely down buried in the detail."
Whether it will reverse Button's fortunes remains to be seen, though Roberts is well aware that getting the Pirelli tyres operating correctly is critical to performance this season. "All the teams are learning without a shadow of a doubt," he said of the Pirelli enigma. "Whether anybody has actually really solved them yet I don't know. Every race that goes by and every set of data we get, certainly the big teams who've got a bit of analysis going on in the background, we're always making steps forward.
"We did learn a huge amount in Canada; fortunately, I think that stands us in pretty good stead. Whether we've cracked it or not, I wouldn't like to say. If we get a 1-2 in Valencia then I'd say we've done a pretty good job."
Ironically, while Button's performances begin to flag those of Ferrari's Felipe Massa have improved. It's heralded the arrival of a more competitive Italian team, though it's not yet given any reason for additional concern in Woking.
"We've got to admit that they've improved, quite considerably," Roberts confessed. "The car they started the year with looked a bit of a handful to be fair, but I don't think we worry about them any more or less than anyone else.
"I wouldn't single them out but I think we set a slightly broader view," he continued. "There are four or five teams that on merit can easily win any of the races. As we've seen this year it's more wide open than that and other teams have been able to get it just right on the day and come up."
Roberts is also confident that the early season pit stop blunders are a thing of the past, the team having performed well in Canada, no doubt buoyed by the prospect of a free drink on Sam Michael if they average under a three second pit stop.
Next stop for the team is the European Grand Prix, around the Valencia street circuit. It's a venue Button has never particularly excelled at, his best result a third place finish in 2010, a point the 2009 world champion will be keen to turn around. Hamilton meanwhile will be looking to build on his Canadian Grand Prix win, as well as go one better than the hat-trick of second place finishes he's had around Valencia's docks.
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