RUSSIAN AROUND: A still camouflage-printed Daniil Kvyat at speed in his Red Bull during 2015 Formula 1 testing at the Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, on February 26, 2015. Image: AP / Manu Fernandez
BARCELONA, Spain - Jenson Button completed only one timed lap as misfiring McLaren's hopes of picking up speed in Formula 1's final pre-season test stalled before lunch on Thursday (Feb 26 2015).
Racing director Eric Bouillier had said the previous weekend, after Fernando Alonso crashed and was helicoptered to hospital, that the team would be "pushing harder than ever" at the Catalunya circuit north of here.
Pushing the troubled McLaren back into the garage turned out to be closer to the truth, though it was not what the Frenchman had in mind.
McLaren's woes, on a day when Brazilian Felipe Massa was quickest for Mercedes-powered Williams with 103 laps to his credit, stood out starkly with Button's lap nearly eight seconds slower.
Sweden's Marcus Ericsson did 122 laps for Sauber and was second fastest on supersoft tyres but Mercedes experienced rare power-unit problems with double F1 champion Lewis Hamilton putting in a comparatively meagre 48 laps.
Button started off with some aerodynamic runs but, with only one of seven laps producing a time, noticed a vibration that required a lengthy change of the Honda power unit and ended McLaren's presence on the track for the day. Button, 2009 champion, is no stranger to such setbacks and will be back in the car today (Feb 27) before Denmark's Kevin Magnussen takes over for the final two days.
Fernando Alonso will not be back behind the wheel until first practice for the March 15 season-opener in Melbourne although even that remained in doubt. McLaren Group head Ron Dennis told reporters on Thursday that the driver, released from hospital the previous day after three nights under medical observation, was rarin' to go but doctors advised more rest.
Dennis, asked whether the double F1 champion would be racing in Australia, when: "I can't foresee any reason why not but I'm not the doctor. There will be some tests, there are processes laid down, and I can't see any reason why he won't sail through.
"It's not for me to determine. It's not for me to say yes or no."
Alonso's crash into the Catalunya track wall triggered considerable speculation about what really happened. It wasn't caught on a camera and Dennis sought to dampen some of the wilder theories circulating.
"People are saying we're concealing, we're doing this, we're doing that, and it's a complete fabrication," added the boss who recognised McLaren had a mountain to climb with new engine partner Honda.