Jenson Button warned McLaren fans not to read much into the times he set at testing in Valencia after his debut for the team saw him finish fifth-fastest of seven drivers, ahead only of rookies Vitaly Petrov and Nico Hulkenberg.
Fernando Alonso ensured that Ferrari topped the timesheets for all three days of the test, and a late hydraulic problem for Michael Schumacher could not prevent the Mercedes driver from condemning Button to being the slowest of the three champions on track.
But the reigning world champion said he was not concerned, as the day had mainly been about acclimatising to the car and not about setting fast times.
Problems with his seat height had left McLaren engineers working until 1am, with further modification to the cockpit needed during the morning.
Alonso, making a similar debut for Ferrari, drew crowds of Spanish fans to the Circuit Ricardo Tormo to watch him put his Ferrari at the top of the timesheet, while countryman Pedro de la Rosa kept his new Sauber team in second.
Schumacher ran third while another Spaniard, Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari, set the fourth-fastest time ahead of Button. Petrov and Hulkenburg were slowest for Renault and Williams, with 2.2 seconds covering the field.
Button’s performance was perhaps a little more subdued than his first appearance for Brawn GP at Barcelona a year ago.
But the 2009 world champion said he wasn’t in the least worried, telling Autosport: “We have had to change a lot within the car, but I fit well now which is good. I feel comfortable and have a good height in the car and that is always important for your confidence.
“This afternoon we have been able to do some laps which has allowed me to get used to all the systems in the car and dealing with my engineer, working with him while I am on the circuit, and also in the pits. So it has been a very useful day.”
When asked about his lap times, he said the first test was the wrong venue for trying to draw comparisons between teams and inferences about their future performance: “At the moment it is important for us to put our blinkers on and work with our car and improve it.”
He did, however, flag up changes in balance between a heavily-fuelled car and one running on fumes as an issue that all drivers would have to come to terms with.
Valencia test times day three:
- Fernando Alonso, Ferrari: 1:11.470 (127 laps)
- Pedro de la Rosa, Sauber-Ferrari: 1:12.094 (80 laps)
- Michael Schumacher, Mercedes: 1:12.438 (82 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:12.576 (97 laps)
- Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes: 1:12.951 (82 laps)
- Vasili Petrov, Renault: 1:13.097 (75 laps)
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams-Cosworth: 1:13.669 (126 laps)