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McLaren improvements boost Button's hopes of repeat Spanish success

Jenson Button, right, and Lewis Hamilton finished first and second for McLaren at the Chinese Grand Prix in April.
Jenson Button, right, and Lewis Hamilton finished first and second for McLaren at the Chinese Grand Prix in April.
  • McLaren hope car improvements will help end team's poor run of form in Barcelona
  • British outfit have won in the Catalan capital once once in the past nine years
  • Jenson Button seeking to repeat his victory with Brawn at Spanish Grand Prix last year
  • He and McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton finished first and second at last race in China

(CNN) -- Jenson Button's McLaren team hope that improvements to his car can help the world champion repeat his 2009 Spanish Grand Prix success as the Formula One circuit returns to Europe this weekend.

The British driver triumphed last year while with the former Brawn team at a Barcelona circuit where McLaren, currently top in the constructors' table, have won only once in the past nine years.

Button leads the drivers' standings by 10 points from Nico Rosberg of Mercedes after two wins from the opening four races, including victory in China three weeks ago.

While the volcanic ash cloud affecting European airspace delayed the teams' return from Shanghai -- causing problems for the likes of Virgin, who have been able to build new fuel tanks for only one of their two cars -- McLaren have had time to make upgrades that should boost the hopes of Button and cohort Lewis Hamilton.

F1 standings after four races

It's a relatively high-speed circuit, and quite enjoyable to drive -- provided your car is working properly
--Jenson Button

"In recent years, we've produced successful cars with inherent performance characteristics that enable them to perform better in slower corners," team principal Martin Whitmarsh told reporters.

"While we haven't overlooked high-speed performance, it's not typically been our strongest area -- and that might explain our recent loss of form around Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

"For 2010, however, we feel we have a car that generally excels in high-speed corners, and while that in itself, isn't enough to suggest a complete reversal of our recent fortunes in Spain, we feel that the useful upgrades we're bringing to this race, which include new front and rear wings, will help us consolidate our position among the leaders and, hopefully, enable us to close the gap to the cars at the front."

Button won from pole position last year, and is looking forward to the European leg of the calendar.

"It's a relatively high-speed circuit, and one that's quite enjoyable to drive -- provided your car is working properly," the Englishman said. "There are some fast corners, but the majority of the track is made up of pretty long corners where you really need the car to do all the work. It's a circuit that really rewards precision, and punishes aggression.

"Fortunately, our car does seem to have a very good neutral balance in the high-speed corners -- it's probably the most impressive aspect of the car -- and we went well during pre-season testing, so I think we go into this weekend feeling pretty well prepared.

"Finally, I'm looking forward to returning to Europe. It's been an incredibly exciting series of flyaway races, but I think everybody in Formula One looks forward to racing closer to home, back in the sport's heartland."

Hamilton, who was second in Shanghai, qualified 14th for last year's Spanish race but still managed to finish ninth.

"We've got a couple of fairly significant upgrades coming for this race. And while it would be naive to think that these will move us up the pecking order -- because almost all the teams produce a major bodywork update for Barcelona -- we're optimistic that they'll once again help us to bridge the gap to the leading cars," the 2008 world champion said.

"If it's a dry race, then, realistically, I think it's going to be harder for us to be up at the front. As we did in China, we'll be putting additional emphasis on qualifying -- it will be more important than ever in Barcelona as, traditionally, it's always been a track where overtaking is very difficult.

"Given that most cars will only be stopping once, we have less scope for passing, so a good grid position will be vital here."