This is not the first time this year that both MP4-31s feature in the upper half of the field in free practice. However, the British team and its Japanese engine partner have yet to convert these early promises into Q3 appearances on Saturdays.
And with Sochi Autodrom considered a power-sensitive track, Button remains cautious about his prospects in round four of this year’s championship.
“If you can qualify well, can get to P8 or something, you’d take it,” the 2009 world champion said. “I think it is nice for the team and you can still race well from there. It maybe limits you a little bit more but you’re with the quicker cars and in the DRS so maybe they’ll pull you along.
“There’s also fuel-saving that needs to be done here so it’s a tricky race for us but we’ll give it our all. I think we’re all looking forward to the weekend.”
Although he is quick to keep expectations in check, Button insists he was encouraged by his team’s Friday showing.
“The car feels pretty good. On the prime (medium) tyre, we were even quicker – I think P4 or P5 – and then, on the option (supersoft) tyre, we didn’t get the best out of it. But we will and I’m looking forward to what we can do this weekend.
“We were a tenth off fifth place, but it is only Friday and we’ve been very quick on Friday’s before so we will see tomorrow, but I think we have a positive feeling.
“We know we’re not going to be setting the world alight this weekend, it is a tough circuit for us, especially in the race, but we’ll do our best and hopefully we’ll be knocking on the door of Q3 and have a chance of scoring some points.”
Alonso has already said Q3 remains a realistic target for McLaren-Honda this weekend.