- Button says points unlikely at Aus GP
- McLaren's manual starts impress Heidfeld
- Kovalainen not eyeing pole at Aus GP
- Massa: We are in much better shape this year
Button says points unlikely at Aus GP
(GMM) Jenson Button has ruled out scoring points in Melbourne this weekend, but flagged a growing sense of optimism from within the Honda camp.
The Japanese squad's new 2008 car was badly off the pace in recent group testing, but team members say a bodywork update at a subsequent Jerez session – where the RA108 circulated alone – delivered a significant performance gain.
British driver Button suggests that the improvement is so exciting that the Brackley based team now has no idea where the car will slot in on Sunday's Australian GP grid.
"I don't think we are going to be challenging for points but we are going to be a lot closer, actually racing in the mix with the slower part of that middle pack," he is quoted as saying from Melbourne by the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday.
"I don't think they've got a lot to worry about – a lot of the teams – but I think we'll be a little bit closer," he added.
Button's Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello is also encouraged by the Melbourne-spec package that he tried at Jerez.
"In my 16 years of formula one, I never had an improvement as big as I had last week," he said.
McLaren's manual starts impress Heidfeld
(GMM) Ferrari is believed to have ultimately the quickest car, but Nick Heidfeld reckons the red team's silver rivals might get off to a faster start when the 2008 season gets racing on Sunday.
The German, who drives for BMW Sauber, has told the magazine Sport Bild that one of the most impressive revelations of the recent winter period for him was the speed at which McLaren's MP4-23 got off the line when its drivers were practicing race starts.
Coinciding with the introduction of the McLaren-supplied control ECU this season, traction and also launch control has been banned.
Heidfeld, 30, suggests that the Mercedes-powered team will have the jump on its rivals when it comes to how Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen make their manual starts in 2008.
"McLaren have a starting system that allows Hamilton and Kovalainen to pull away with only 9,000 revs. On the other hand, we (BMW) need to use much higher speeds when we begin to accelerate," the 30-year-old said.
Kovalainen not eyeing pole at Aus GP
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen on Wednesday said his goal for his opening race for McLaren is not to win pole or even fight for "a top position".
Many believe that, while Ferrari's F2008 might ultimately be the quickest car, the 2008-spec McLaren is set to run the Italian team close this year — and may even have the edge over a single qualifying lap.
But as he prepares to start the season as title protagonist Lewis Hamilton's new teammate, Kovalainen reported that he is not eyeing top spot at Albert Park.
"I need to do many things correctly and I'm certainly not aiming for pole position in Melbourne," he told the British news agency Reuters on Wednesday, at the scene of his dreadful first grand prix for Renault in Australia 12 months ago.
Kovalainen, who is 26, suggests that – although no longer a rookie – he is still adjusting to life in his new surroundings.
"I need all weekend to work better with my engineers, my mechanics, the whole team to make sure the car is well set up and I am full of confidence for qualifying and the race," he added.
"Hopefully towards the end of the season I can fight for the top positions and if things go well, even early on.
"But for the moment the priority is just to start better than last year and not aim for pole," Kovalainen said.
Massa: We are in much better shape this year
"Winter testing went pretty well," Ferrari driver Felipe Massa said. "I was happy with the car right from the very start through to the end as the various new developments came on stream over the winter months. Of course, we need to keep working but the team has done a good job and we put in a very high mileage.
"On the reliability front it is difficult to say exactly what might happen, but on this point we are definitely in better shape than we were at the start of '07. Now, with the racing starting, we will see where we stand and if and in which areas we need to improve. What we are certain of is that we are starting from a good base line."