Jenson Button says McLaren has made considerable gains in aerodynamic performance this year but they have been masked by the team's ongoing struggle with its Honda power unit.
The McLaren MP4-30 has been designed under the leadership of new chief engineer Peter Prodromou, who joined from Red Bull in September last year. The car has struggled for points all season due to a lack of power, but Button says big improvements have been made on the aerodynamic side under Prodromou's guidance.
"You can probably see his influence with the way the car looks and the way the ride height is with the car," Button told ESPN. "Prod is coming in at a very difficult time and if he'd came in two years ago then last year would have been a lot more competitive. Now it's very difficult to see how we have improved with the car balance and its speed, but it's definitely there.
"I like his ideas, I like the way he works in terms of how he listens to us as drivers. The details he wants from us in terms of where the wind is coming from with the front wing, the rear wing and the centre of the car, it's really interesting. It's a nice feeling as a driver being listened to, because we are the guys in the car and we know what's happening. He is a listener and really uses that information, which is good to see. He's doing a good job but it's not an easy time for him either at the moment. He's been involved in a winning team for so many years and we are not winning here. It's tough, but it can't be easy all the time."
Button admits the whole team is hurting from the lack of results this year, but said it can take encouragement from the improvements it has found on the chassis side this year.
"It's tough for everyone. The guys are positive and confident it's going to improve -- and that's a reality -- but they are also hurting as well. But it doesn't change the way they work. The mechanics are still working flatout because they want to build the car as perfect as they can and do the best job the can and have the quickest pit stops. It's just the reward isn't what it used to be with this team.
"The guys back at the factory are working harder than ever to improve, in terms of aerodynamics and taking weight out of areas of the car that are quite heavy, so I personally feel there are more new parts coming onto the car than ever before. I think there is a good atmosphere in terms of seeing improvement on the car, which is important for them to feel that they are needed, but it also still hurts when you finish a race a lap and a half down. But we all go through it together and we've all got to help each other through these difficult times."