Three-time Australian Formula One champion Jenson Button says he won’t be adding a fourth title this year with McLaren.
The former world champion Brit said his McLaren-Honda hadn’t done enough in the pre-season to challenge in Melbourne in the first grand prix of the year.
McLaren completed substantially less mileage than its F1 rivals in testing amid repeated problems with Honda’s new engine, and was also disrupted by an accident that left Spaniard Fernando Alonso in hospital and unable to compete at Albert Park.
“We all know it’s not going to be the easiest weekend for us,” Button said on Thursday.
“Will we be challenging for a win? No we won’t be.
“In winter testing we had our difficulties but in terms of the way that the car feels and the way that the engine feels is a really good platform.
“It’s just going to take time … this weekend for us is more about just getting the best out of everything that we have.”
McLaren finished behind the field in terms of kilometres and laps covered in testing following the team’s switch to Honda power units from this term.
Button, who joined McLaren in 2010, said they were a year behind in development of the complicated system compared to Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.
But he felt it wouldn’t be long until the team was challenging.
“If you look at the layout of the power unit and how tight everything is in the car, you would say it’s very aggressive and you can see that Honda is here to win,” said Button, who won in Melbourne in 2009, 10 and 12.
“It’s just a matter of time before we are fighting at the front.”
Button said he hadn’t been in contact with Alonso and wasn’t sure when he would return to racing following his concussion from the heavy crash during testing.
Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen is standing in for the dual world champion.
Button said he had studied the data from the crash and there was no technical issue with the car.