While Mercedes continued, to top, the practice sessions in Malaysia, all eyes were once again on McLaren, and the returning Fernando Alonso. Optimism remains high in the McLaren garage, inspire of, their troubles in Australia, where Jenson Button was the sole McLaren in the field, finishing 11th, few laps down on the leaders.
On a track such as Malaysia, it is widely expected, that McLaren will have a better showing than in Australia. The data obtained from finishing the race in Australia, will surely help in terms of improvement in pace, and getting them towards the right end of the pack, although a top 10 finish seems some way off.
Practice 1 for the Malaysian Grand Prix, brought in with it the return of Alonso to the cockpit. Both McLarens focussed their sessions on reliability, to try and put the mileage in a car who’s only hope of a respectable result is to finish the race again. Alonso put in 20 laps, as focus slowly deviated away from the mysterious crash, which resulted in him missing the Grand Prix in Australia. Jenson Button completed 19 laps, while finishing down in 17th.Alonso finished in 14thlapping 2.761s off the pace, that put him ahead of the two Force India’s.
With no major problems suffered in Practice 1, Alonso and Button resumed duties for Practice 2. They were able to get some good mileage, although finished in 16th and 17th respectively, 2.7s off the pace. Alonso did have his moments, in this session, while picking up a flat spot, after his long run was disrupted when he skated off into the gravel. This might not add up their finest practice sessions, but finishing, without any engine problems, is another step in the right direction. As encouraging as this might sound, the team is still a bucket load of pace behind the leaders, with a solution, that seems difficult to ascertain at the present.
While Button does not expect McLaren to move ahead of any of the teams it trailed in Melbourne, he is confident that improvements to the operation of the engine and aerodynamic tweaks will allow it to be more competitive. He also expects McLaren to be racing in the midfield by the time, F1 reaches Bahrain.