Button fears McLaren are drifting off the pace

ALAN BALDWIN
Last updated 12:27 29/05/2012

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Jenson Button left the Monaco Formula One paddock feeling more like the long-suffering Honda also-ran he once was than a McLaren world championship contender.

His fear, shared by team mate Lewis Hamilton, is that McLaren are falling behind their rivals at a time when they should have been powering ahead as others dropped points.

Button, the 2009 world champion with Brawn GP, won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix with a car that appeared to be the quickest on the Formula One starting grid as well as the most attractive.

After Sunday's sixth round of the season, the Briton looked at the points standings on the table in front of him and shook his head sadly.

"It's my leanest period since my old Honda days," grimaced the driver whose last race for Honda in 2008 ended with the car catching fire. He had scored just three points that entire season.

"Shit happens sometimes. I've just got to clear it up and move on," he said.

Button has scored just two points in his last three races and drawn a blank in three of the six. He scored 25 points in Australia but just 20 from all the rest.

In Monaco he failed to finish, colliding and retiring with a puncture after chasing Heikki Kovalainen's Caterham - a car that has yet to score a point in Formula One - for much of the afternoon in 13th place.

As he observed with a wry smile, at least the puncture put him out of his misery.

SMOOTH STYLE

"Since I've joined the team everything has gone amazingly well and after every few races the confidence would step up a gear, with the understanding of the car and working with the engineers," he said.

"Even into this year, with the first race (it was going well). The first three races were good, I was happy. But suddenly the last three races, I don't know where the pace and feeling I get from the car has gone. I haven't had that before.

"It's tough, but it's nothing we can't sort out. We will solve the issues. It's just whether we do it in time," said the 32-year-old, whose smooth style means he has struggled in the past to get vital heat into the tyres.

Hamilton finished fifth in Monaco, after starting third, and the 2008 champion was also concerned that the team was going backwards.

"The team definitely have some work to do. I've fallen behind, and race by race we are getting further and further behind the others," he told reporters after a frustrating afternoon on his favourite track.

"I'm still there, but we are falling behind bit by bit, which is tough for us, but we will keep pushing, keep fighting," said the Monaco resident.

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"I lost a lot of points and we have to focus on trying not to lose any more from now on...I have to go back to the drawing board, find out where we are losing time and work on that."

Both will be hoping they can regain their edge by the next race in Canada, a track that has been good to McLaren in the past. Button won there in a rain-lashed epic in 2011, Hamilton in 2007 and 2010.

- Reuters

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