McLaren driver Jenson Button believes he would’ve gained nothing from trying out the team’s 2017-spec F1 car in the Bahrain in-season test ahead of his grand prix racing return in Monaco.
Button stepped away from Formula 1 at the end of last year but was called up for Monaco by McLaren, replacing the Indy 500-bound Fernando Alonso.
The 2009 world champion heads into the weekend without prior track experience of the faster, wider F1 cars of 2017, despite there having been an opportunity to give him a first track run with the MCL32 during the post-Bahrain GP test.
But while several names in the paddock have expressed reservations over Button passing up the test chance, the Briton, who insists he had only the option to do half a day in the two-day test, believes his pre-event simulation work will prove to be sufficient preparation.
“Preparation has been good, apart from the fact I haven’t driven the car, these new regulations,” Button said in Monaco.
“It’s not perfect but the option was to do half a day in Bahrain, which I thought was useless for me to do, a completely different circuit.
“So I said to the team I thought it best if I did the simulator. I have spent a lot of time in the simulator getting used to it.
“It will be interesting, there are a few things different, with the regulations and year-to-year with the technology, but it is still a racing car.”
Regular driver Stoffel Vandoorne and tester Oliver Turvey drove the MCL32 for a day each in Bahrain instead.
Turvey, whose Bahrain presence allowed McLaren to tick off one of the two official test days that F1 teams are required to give to rookie drivers in 2017, managed only 17 laps on the occasion, while Vandoorne logged a much more sensible 81 laps the day after.
Button continued: “In hindsight it’s always easy to say that I would have done 17 laps the day I would have tested – and only half a day!
“Bahrain is a different circuit to here. I think as long as you understand where the car is working, and running through today – those are the things you need to understand and those are the things you can do in the simulator.
“It is wider, which is the big thing for me. The way the tyres work, you work your way around it, and it is warm, which helps.”
While Monaco is regarded by many as McLaren’s best chance at scoring points in what has been a fruitless 2017 campaign so far, Button said he did not feel under pressure.
“I am very relaxed, very excited actually. It is interesting coming back for one grand prix.
“Monaco it is very special. I’ve won it before, done it for 17 years and had some really good experiences. But I don’t feel any pressure at all.
“I will get in the car and do the best job I can and everything I do, I will get the best out of myself and get the best out of the equipment and team I am working with.
“The car was working well in Barcelona qualifying. I drove the upgrade in the simulator and it was a definite improvement. If it is all straightforward this weekend, we should be reasonable.”
Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble