Formula One: Fallen giants McLaren look on the bright side after dismal start

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Jenson Button found a glimmer of hope in McLaren's dismal start to the Formula One season when he at least finished Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

The Englishman was last of the 11 cars that completed the race, and was twice lapped by race winner Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes, but the 2009 world champion saw some positives.

"Today has been a good day," he said.

"We're still a long way off, but this is a good starting point - and I enjoyed the race. I even had a good little battle with Checo (Sergio Perez).

"Today also really helps in terms of development. If we'd done three laps, we'd have learnt nothing, so we've learnt a massive amount by completing a race distance."

Button missed out on a championship point but he said that was almost irrelevant after a weekend when everything went wrong for the sport's second-most successful team, who have not won a race since 2012.

"It was also a good opportunity for me to get used to the car and to play around with it, making adjustments in the cockpit," said the Briton, whose longest stint before Melbourne had been just 12 laps.

"There's a lot of work still needed - on power, driveability, downforce and set-up - but we can make big strides. And, by improving one area, it tends to snowball."

McLaren had low expectations after Button and Kevin Magnussen were the slowest qualifiers. Things only got worse on Sunday when the Dane failed to make the grid after his Honda power unit blew.

"Even though I couldn't make the start, the team can learn something from my car's problem," said Magnussen, who was recalled after two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was ruled out on medical advice following a crash in testing on Feb 22.

"We can take positives from Jenson finishing the race, too - we came here to learn, and that's what we did. Finishing is a small victory for the team - I don't think we expected to be able to do that.

"Now we can get a car to the finish line, we can start to accelerate our learning."

Racing director Eric Boullier also found a silver lining from a dark weekend.

"It's not easy to find positives, but in fact there are some," he said.

"We can take positives from Jenson finishing the race, too - we came here to learn, and that's what we did."