Jenson Button is confident McLaren-Honda has more potential to unlock from the MP4-31, and says the team will be “a lot happier” when it becomes a regular point scorer again.
Despite noticeable progress over the winter, the British team and Japanese engine manufacturer still “have a long way to go” in order to catch the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari, racing director Eric Boullier recently admitted.
McLaren-Honda enters this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix with only one point to its name in 2016, and it took a race of attrition in Bahrain for reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne to claim P10.
"The last race [in China] was difficult with 12th and 13th and you don't want to be there as a driver,” Button said in Thursday’s FIA presser. “But compared to last year every car finished. That’s a big step forward compared to last year.
"You want more, you always want more. For us having something coming in new in every race is moving in the right direction. When we start scoring points on regular basis we'll be a lot happier, but that hasn't happened yet.”
Team-mate Fernando Alonso previously said McLaren-Honda needs to find more speed in qualifying in order to return to points-scoring form, with the Woking-based outfit yet to place any of its car in Q3.
But with Sochi considered a power-sensitive track with its long straights, Button expects another challenging outing on that front, though Honda’s head of F1 project Yusuke Hasegawa recently declared the Japanese engine “was nearly there”.
"It’s very difficult to know what ‘nearly’ means," the 2009 world champion added. "I think we’re very happy with the way the deployment is this year, compared to last year. We’re a lot close to the other manufacturers, which is great. In terms of outright power, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone really knows, but we know there is still a lot of work to do and that’s the aim.
"Our qualifying pace has been reasonable but I still don't think we have shown our full potential. We have been close to Q3 but circuits like this don't help. When we get back to Europe it should be easier to show our pace in qualifying and hopefully the race."