practice 2: Surprise McLaren 1-2 (Article)

It took less than one-and-a-half minutes for Jenson Button to wipe away McLaren's winter testing of discontent and assert the team as a contender for the Australian GP.

Button and team-mate Lewis Hamilton set the fastest times in Friday's practice as the team profited from same late changes to the car's set-up following a frustrating Formula One offseason.

Button posted the fastest lap of 1:28.854 in the second practice session, 0.132s ahead of Hamilton as the McLaren MP4-26s performed strongly on the softer 'option' tyres after being off the pace on the hard tyres in the morning session.

However, it wasn't just pace that had Button elated by the end of day's play. The 2009 World Champ delighted to see his car come through the day without a single reliability issues.

"Today showed that, first of all, we've got reliability - which is great," said Button.

"That's something we've not had all winter, so to have a car that runs for as many laps as we want it to is very satisfying. It also means we can get stuck into our set-up work and improve the car.

"I don't think there's much to be gained from looking at today's times though, so I'm not going to get too carried away. Still, it's been a positive day because we've been able to do so much running and get a good feeling for the car on different fuel-loads."

McLaren arrived in Melbourne with a new exhaust system fixed to their MP4-26. The design is similar to that used by Ferrari and Red Bull and Button reckons it's a huge part of McLaren's improved pace.

"The new exhaust has definitely brought performance to the car - it feels much better, makes the handling more 'complete'.

"When you have downforce at the rear, you can also add it at the front, and then you put temperature in the tyres - there's so much that comes with downforce.

"I'm so happy with how hard the guys have worked and what they've brought to this race - they've worked really hard and they've delivered something good here.