2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button believes his former team McLaren shouldn’t have overstated its expectations ahead of its switch to Renault in 2018.
After three disappointing seasons with Honda, McLaren switched to Renault power for this season in a deal which runs until the end of 2020. While McLaren has enjoyed a strong start to the season — scoring points in each of the opening four rounds leaving the team in fourth place in the constructors’ championship, many expected the Woking-based squad to be fighting among F1’s top three teams, not in the midfield.
Button reckons it would be receiving more credit had it not been for the bold claims made regarding the level of its chassis.
“The three big teams, it’s difficult to challenge them at the moment and it’s going to take a while,” Button told Sky Sports. “McLaren came out last year and this year and said they think they might have the best car. It’s a tall order to have the best car in Formula 1 when you’re racing against Ferrari and Mercedes and Red Bull. And I think we’ve seen that isn’t the case.
“So you’d say the season so far is a disappointment but if they didn’t say they had the best car you’d say it’s a great season for them. They’ve made good steps, they’re fourth in the constructors’ standings, but because of what they said at the start of the year you say maybe it’s not what we expected.”
Button has heaped praise on former McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso — who he will go up against while driving for SMP Racing at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. After winning on his debut in the World Endurance Championship on Saturday at the Six Hours of Spa, Alonso will be hoping to add a win at Le Mans to his collection as looks to claim the Triple Crown — a feat only achieved by Graham Hill.
“He’s definitely one of the drivers you worry about. Whatever you’re racing in, if he’s competing — you’re going to worry. He’s not just quick. He’s a very clever driver, he’s got the experience and he is always there. If you have a great day, you might out-qualify him and you might have a great race but he will always be on your heels. He very rarely has a bad race, which is tough when you’re teammates with him.
“We’re going to go into Le Mans racing against each other and I know if we’re in a stint together, he’s not going to put a foot wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 o’clock in the morning or 3 o’clock in the afternoon, he’s going to be 100 percent. You’ve got to keep up with that and it’s tough but that’s what I love about racing against the best drivers in the world. They keep you on your toes.”