Q & A with Jenson Button
|By Jonathan Noble
||Saturday, July 15th 2006, 17:28 GMT
Jenson Button's trouble season continued at the French Grand Prix on Saturday when he failed to make it past Q1 for the second time this season.
After the promising pace of the car at Indianapolis two weeks ago, and a confident-boosting lap in morning practice, it all went wrong in the afternoon when he could only set the 19th best time.
Autosport.com was there to hear what the Honda Racing driver thought of his latest drama.
Q. You must be very disappointed?
Jenson Button: Yes, slightly. We ran one set of tyres at the end, which we always do, but I got shafted by two cars. Normally it wouldn't be a big issue, but because we haven't got the pace it made quite a big difference being trapped by those two cars.
That is it really. It was really disappointing and watching Rubens, it is the same situation for him. He is finding it really difficult with the car and in the first session he was lucky enough to run two sets of tyres. I don't think they expected to do that, but it turned out that way and he was able to get through.
Q. You had high expectations with the new aero package though...
JB: I had high expectations up until qualifying. U3 (the third untimed practice session) was reasonably good, I was sixth or seventh and we did our tyre run really early on - something like 11.25am. Normally the circuit improves, so we were reasonably happy and the car felt reasonably good on the tyres. So even though I had traffic the car did not feel very good at all. I had very low grip and was very surprised to have not qualified.
Q. What are your expectations for the race now?
JB: I don't know. There are many different ideas, but the basic thing is that the car is just not quick enough. We are not around here, and to be in the top eight is going to be really difficult for either Rubens or myself. He is further up, but when the Ferraris, Renaults and McLarens are so fast, and also the Toyotas, it is very difficult to beat them. It is going to be tough for both of us.
Q. Is there anything that Nico Rosberg or Michael Schumacher could have done to get out of the way?
JB: Michael moved out of the way but there is a problem when you are at high speed and you are braking into a corner. He did nothing wrong, but he went straight on and it doesn't look like he holds you up but you lose so much downforce because there is a car in front going through the air in front that when you hit the brakes I just locked the rears solid.
That didn't cost me so much time but I went through the first high-speed chicane and Rosberg was in front. I don't know if I take a different line compared to most people there but he did not move off my racing line and I had to go to the inside and I lost time.
The last sector was reasonable, and the first sector, it was the middle sector where I had the traffic with both of them and that was it. On a normal day if the car is competitive that amount of time would not have been an issue but when the car is not as competitive as expected it costs you a lot of time.
Q. Rubens just escaped, so I guess you would have escaped too?
JB: Yeah, he ran a new set of tyres slightly before me, realised it wasn't quick enough and was able to run a second set of new tyres. We had just run a new set at the end because we thought we would be easily in. We didn't think it would be an issue at all. There is no blame on anyone's part, it is just that we weren't quick enough and we had a little bit of traffic.
Q. You missed the cut before at Silverstone, it's pretty disastrous to be so far down isn't it?
JB: Yeah it is. Silverstone was good because we got up to 12th by lap six and due to the accident I overtook a few people. Here it is going to be a bit more difficult because I think that the pace of the cars in front is reasonably good on a run so it is going to be difficult. We will see what we can do. The strategy is an interesting one. I am still going to have some fun, whatever happens. If we don't get points I am still going to have some fun. That is my aim tomorrow.
Q. But is fun good enough for Honda?
JB: No. It is not enough for me either but I have got to enjoy myself tomorrow. I don't want to just drive around and finish 19th. So, I will give it my all and we will see what happens. As a team we are disappointed to be that far down. And forget 19th - Rubens is 14th and he thinks he had a good lap. Fourteenth is not good enough and very unexpected as well.
Q. Is it something track specific because at Indianapolis it appeared that you had turned the corner?
JB: Well, it seemed great until qualifying. In U3 we didn't do anything unusual in terms of fuel load and we were okay. A 1m17.4s was pretty good, I was pretty happy with that. The quickest time was a 1m17.0 and I know the Ferraris and Renaults didn't run new tyres but everyone else did. It is surprising to get to qualifying and be that far off the pace. Even in Q2, everyone else went a second quicker and for some reason our car just didn't gain the time that some other people did, which is strange.
Q. Rubens was talking about a lack of grip, which has been a problem since Australia. How surprised are you that the problem is still there and still hurting the team?
JB: Well, there is a lack of grip but here I think he is maybe comparing it to last year. Here, the circuit is slower this year but if I had put it on pole I would not have said that the car feels bad. That is the thing. The car doesn't feel that bad but the lap time is just not there. We have got a bit of understeer in the car in certain places, and a bit of oversteer, but it doesn't feel horrendous. It is just that the lap time isn't there.
Q. So is the traffic more of a problem rather than the car itself?
JB: No not at all. The car is just not quick enough. It is not a problem that you brake at a corner and you have massive understeer or massive oversteer, it is reasonably well balanced. It is just that the lap time isn't there, you are pushing and trying your hardest and you cannot get the lap time out of the car. If we had a clear lap I would have qualified for Q2 but that is it, we would not have gone any further and that is the problem.
Q. You say you want to get in the car and have fun tomorrow, but surely not at that part of the grid?
JB: Well, I am racing in F1, I am racing against the best drivers in the world. It is great. I love it. And I don't want to be 19th at the start and I don't want to finish outside of the points but that is what it is at the moment, and that is what it is tomorrow. We have just got to try our best and see what we can get out of it.
There might be a lot of interesting things and data we can get out of it for the next race and maybe work out where we missed out in qualifying, and where we are with the car compared to the competition. It is going to be like a practice session tomorrow for me.