Jenson Button was seventh fastest in both sessions, while Kevin Magnussen finished 10th in FP1.
In typical style, the Santander British Grand Prix kicked off to a packed house today. With the grandstands full, and the spectator terraces crammed, both Jenson and Kevin ran through a trouble-free set of free practice sessions, ironing out MP4-29’s understeer and improving its high-speed balance.
Jenson was seventh fastest in both sessions, while Kevin finished 10th in FP1, improving to eighth in the afternoon. Both drivers were satisfied with the car – but will continue working with their engineers long into the evening in order to refine the balance for qualifying tomorrow afternoon.
Jenson Button (FP1: 1m36.963s, 25 laps, 7th / FP2: 1m36.228s, 34 laps, 7th): “It’s fantastic to be out on the circuit for the first day of the Santander British Grand Prix. To be here on a sunny day, and with a full house, makes it even better, too.
“Our car felt okay today, but we’re still trying to find the right balance in the high-speed sections. We’re struggling with understeer, trying to get more front-end from the car.
“It’s tough out there because it’s so windy: this year’s cars have less downforce than before, which makes the wings very important. When they’re affected massively by the wind, it makes it difficult to get any productive back-to-back results during testing.
“It’s proving tricky for us to get the Prime tyre up to temperature, too; as soon as we back off for a yellow flag or for traffic, we can’t get it working again. It’s very difficult. However, the Option tyre looks good and is able to last for a reasonably long time.
“Nevertheless, it’s been a good day. Hopefully, we can put on a great show for all the fans this weekend.”
Kevin Magnussen (FP1: 1m37.231s, 30 laps, 10th / FP2: 1m36.299s, 35 laps, 8th): “This is a great racetrack – nice and fast. I think our car would probably be more competitive on a slower track, but, so far, it’s not been looking too bad – we’re not looking any less competitive than we did in Austria last month.
“After today, it’s still difficult to judge the pace of Williams, but we’ll probably be fighting the Force Indias. We could be up for some points this weekend, so getting the maximum of the car will be very important.
“Today’s sessions showed that the Prime is a very hard tyre to keep alive – it’s quite easy for it to lose temperature. At the moment, it looks like the Option tyre is the better race tyre for us.
“I love driving here, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the rest of the weekend.”
Eric Boullier - Racing director, McLaren Mercedes: “Firstly, it’s great to be racing in Great Britain, at our home race – and on a beautiful, if slightly blustery, summer’s day.
“Secondly, the track has never looked better. It’s taken a couple of years for the new configuration to establish itself, but, today, you could really see the fruits of the circuit staff’s labours – I think we’re set for a fascinating and gripping Santander British Grand Prix on Sunday.
“For McLaren Mercedes, this was a relatively straightforward practice day. We spent time in both sessions attempting to find a satisfactory way forward with the Hard tyre. We’re still not quite there, but the changes we made between sessions proved satisfactory, and we have a good base understanding to study tonight and take into tomorrow morning.
“Today didn’t give us a clear read on the competitive order, but I think we’ve made a confident start to the weekend. With changeable weather on the horizon for both Saturday and Sunday, we’ve made a good start to what could well be an unpredictable weekend.”