Jenson Button pilots the McLaren MP4-29 Mercedes. (Photo: Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic)

pilots the MP4-29 Mercedes. (Photo: Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic)

Despite a rare reliability glitch with the new McLaren, Jenson Button was encouraged by the form of the car in Bahrain on Friday.

McLaren has been near the top of the mileage charts all winter, but on Friday, Button ran only 49 laps after the car required some gearbox work.

“We had a problem within the gearbox,” said Button. “It took a while to change, as anything within the power unit does these days – but we got back out at the end, and everything ran smoothly, which was good. It was a shame to lose that time – it’s the first major issue we’ve had this winter; but it’s better to suffer it here, rather than at a race. We were still able to do a long-run on high-fuel this afternoon.”

Regarding the overall performance, he said: “The basic car is good, and there’s a great deal of potential there, but there’s still a lot of work to do. We have a good understanding of the power unit, and we know how to race it, but, in terms of balance and grip, the car isn’t quite there yet.

“But I know we’ve got some good improvements in the pipeline – and they should help us close the gap to the front of the grid.”

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