It's driving me crazy! Baffled Button can't explain McLaren's drop in form
16:01 GMT, 23 April 2012
Jenson Button has been left baffled by McLaren's sudden loss of form that left the team looking like also-rans rather than title contenders in Bahrain.
Throughout the race Button and team-mate Lewis Hamilton appeared to be going backwards at times such was the performance – or lack of it – of their cars at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Hamilton was forced to settle for eighth, with two bungled pit stops also contributing to him being knocked off the top of the drivers' standings by race winner Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull.
Out of ideas: Jenson Button was at a loss to explain his team's loss of form
Button could potentially have finished fifth, however, a cracked exhaust and late puncture resulted in his retirement a lap from the finish.
Despite the issues, McLaren were found wanting in comparison to Red Bull and Lotus, who had two cars on the podium for the first time since the 1979 Spanish Grand Prix, with Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean second and third respectively.
Speaking afterwards, Button was unable to extract a single positive from his race as he said: 'There would have been if we had finished. If I hadn't have had the problem at the end then I'd be leading the championship.
'Even if I had finished there would still have been a negative because we weren't quick. So, no, there's no real positive to take from it. One of our strong points has been the start, and in this race that didn't happen.
'Our race pace is normally very good, but it wasn't in this one; the pit stops weren't that special either, and our tyre deg (degradation) was higher than most, so all in all a very difficult day. We just didn't have anything.'
Worse is that Button cannot figure out where it has all gone wrong since his season-opening win in Australia, especially on race days given McLaren have been strong in qualifying.
Mistakes: McLaren's pit stops were far from their fluid best
'In the race we were in a different category compared to Lotus and Red Bull,' added Button. 'Compared to the four guys in front they were a second quicker than us, and they haven't put a second on the car in the last two or three races.
'Something is working for them, and something isn't working for us, and I don't really understand. We were racing the Ferraris, and for most races this year they have been a second slower than us. It's difficult to understand what the problem is.
'So it's tough. I know we have to limit our mistakes because we have had too many. We have to improve. I think we're quick, but we have to make the consistency better.'
Back on top: Sebastian Vettel
'It was the same for Mercedes (who won in China a week earlier through Nico Rosberg), they weren't quick either.'
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes one of the answers to his team's problems revolves around the Pirelli tyres.
Seven-times champion Michael Schumacher criticised Pirelli after the race for making rubber which means a driver cannot push the car or himself to the limit, instead playing a conservative role to ensure the tyres do not degrade too quickly.
Whitmarsh did not go so far as echoing Schumacher's comments, but admits trying to crack Pirelli's code is proving difficult.
'These tyres are very, very challenging,' said Whitmarsh. 'If you're in the sweet spot you're in great shape, if not, you're in for a pretty tough time, and we gave both of our drivers a tough time.
'We were clearly too hard on the tyres, they were going away very quickly, and both drivers really struggled. It's a bit of a concern, but we have to be calm, analytical and fix it.'
With four different drivers and teams winning the first four races, this year's championship is at least proving impossible to call.
'It's a much more interesting championship now than I would like it to be,' joked Whitmarsh. 'We've had four races and they've all been very different in complexion, and who knows what's going to happen at the next one. That lack of predictability, though, is great for the fans.'