Jenson Button believes that McLaren proved morale is high within the team after setting the pace in practice for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix.
Despite the media attention focused on McLaren, in particular on team-mate Lewis Hamilton, the Woking-based marque conjured a one -two in the second 90-minute session.
Hamilton, in the spotlight as he mulls over whether to stay with McLaren or end his 14-year association with the team and instead join Mercedes, was quickest with a lap of one minute 25.290secs.
Button, who finished second fastest in both sessions, was just 0.038secs adrift as he looks to build on his victory in Belgium five days ago.
But even the 32-year-old cannot avoid being asked questions regarding Hamilton, seemingly putting all in McLaren under pressure.
However, Button, runner-up in the last three races at Monza, said: “The morale in the team is good, we just want to race. I’ve shown whatever is going on off the circuit, it doesn’t matter, you have to focus on the job in hand.
“The bit we love, the bit for us that is most important is driving the car. It’s always going to be number one.”
Given the furore surrounding Hamilton, he at least concedes the constant hype surrounding his future is on his mind.
Asked whether all the questions were a distraction, Hamilton said: “I don’t think so. I try my hardest to let other people worry about that.
“Of course, every now and again it pops into your mind, but you have to keep your eye on the ball, and that’s the most important thing at the moment.”
For Hamilton, it is all about letting his driving do the talking, especially after becoming embroiled in a four-car pile-up at the first corner at Spa six days ago, an incident that has severely hampered his title chances.
Assessing his prospects for the weekend to come, Hamilton said: “We do have a great car. The guys have done a fantastic job back at the factory to tune the set-up and aerodynamic package we have this weekend.
“It’s still very close between ourselves, Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus, but we’re not in a bad position.
“We’ve still got some work to do to try to improve and find more time, particularly on our long runs.”
Button, 63 points adrift of championship leader Fernando Alonso and 16 behind Hamilton, feels it will be too close to call in qualifying today.
With the top eight cars in second practice separated by just over a quarter of a second, Button said: “It’s going to be very competitive as there’s not one stand-alone team. It’s not going to be an easy qualifying session or race because there are a lot of cars out there with good consistency.”
Alonso, despite suffering a gearbox issue in the morning, was in close attendance on his team’s home turf as he was 0.058secs down on Hamilton, with team-mate Felipe Massa fourth. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen for Lotus and Force India duo Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg completed the quick top eight.
History was made in the morning session when Ma Qing Hua became the first driver from China to take part in a F1 weekend, the 26 -year-old HRT driver describing it as “an extraordinary experience”.