Q & A with Jenson Button
|By Jonathan Noble||Thursday, May 7th 2009, 17:02 GMT|
Jenson Button comes to the Spanish Grand Prix with a 12-point advantage in the world championship, three wins out of four races in 2009 so far, and a host of upgrades on his Brawn GP BGP001.
But as he told reporters at Barcelona today, he is not taking anything for granted yet.
Q. What are you expecting from the weather this weekend?
Jenson Button: There's a chance of rain on Sunday, but we're not too worried. We've realised a lot of the reasons why we weren't quick (in China), and we'll have much better pace in the wet here. So I'm not worried on that side of things. I'd rather it was dry, but if it's wet I don't think we'd have the big difference to the Red Bulls that we had in China.
Q. You said Red Bull was ahead of you in Bahrain, but now you're introducing developments so will that have changed?
JB: I hope so. I don't think it was just that they'd made a performance step. It was also that with the temperature, we were struggling a lot more than other people. We didn't have much time to fit this engine into the car, to squeeze it in. We were struggling with the heat a little bit with the engine, so we would have lost a bit of time there. Some of it comes from just the parts being tired, because none of our bits went back in between the races. We didn't have any bits so they stayed out with us.
If you saw our car before the last race, she was starting to look a bit tired. To make everything perfect and not so tired also makes a bit of a difference. It's amazing how much difference that can make. And also the Red Bulls had made a bit of an improvement. So I don't think we were the quickest car in Bahrain. I think we did well strategy-wise, but more importantly to get in front of Lewis (Hamilton) and (Sebastian) Vettel on the first lap made the race, otherwise we would have finished behind.
Q. How pivotal is this weekend?
JB: It is an important weekend. We've got a new package here, and we won't be getting a new package immediately after, so this package has to give us a good lump in lap time. I don't know who else has got a new aero package here. We have to hope that ours is enough to put us in front of the Red Bulls by a small margin, because I'm sure they're going to be improving all the time. So it's important, this weekend, for us.
Q. How much lap time do you expect to gain?
JB: I don't know. I'm not going to bother mentioning what they think it will give us because many times before they've said it will give us a certain amount but it's never quite the same on the circuit. But the way that it helps the balance of the car without chucking downforce on it should help us a lot. That was an area where we were weak.
Q. You were very quick here in the winter.
JB: Yeah, but we were quick everywhere in winter testing. I think everyone's improved. I don't think we'll see the pace that we had here in winter testing. The circuit's a lot hotter. The car won't feel as good as it did in the winter, and everyone else is closer to us.
Q. Was this where the other teams saw your potential in the winter and started to panic?
JB: I thought people thought 'they're cheating, they haven't got any weight in the car.'
Q. Do you think your improvements this weekend will surprise teams who think they are catching you?
JB: This is a big aero circuit, and aero-wise we are good, but we're not as good as people think we are. The Red Bulls have been superior everywhere in high-speed corners. Low-speed corners are our strong point. Mechanically I think we're very strong. Here the KERS will work well. I was surprised when I heard that. But it should give them three or fourth tenths on a qualifying lap, and that's a lot of lap time. I know the McLaren people don't think they'll be competitive here because of all the high-speed corners, but with that effect it's a lot of lap time. We just have to hope they're not too quick.
Q. Are you worried about the gaps between Brawn's upgrades? Does the team have the resources and manpower to keep developing the car?
JB: I think we do. I spent some time at the factory last week and everything's going along smoothly, but you're always worried that people are going to catch up. Especially in this sort of season where aerodynamically the cars have changed dramatically since last year. So you're going to have people finding big chunks of lap time through the year. Last year you'd maybe get a tenth per race, but this year there will be quite big chunks being put on the car. But I'm not too worried I was at the start of the season, but I'm not too worried about us improving the car. We have some steps throughout the year that I'm happy with. We've just got to hope those steps are real and it's not just numbers.
Q. McLaren and Ferrari are expected to come back strongly later in the year, so do you feel you need to make the most of your advantage now?
JB: I think McLaren was very strong in Bahrain. They weren't far off us at all. One of the reasons was that KERS worked very well there, but they have been improving every race. If you look at McLaren race by race, it's been different at every race. There are new bits added everywhere on the car. So I think that's why they got so close. Whereas we'll be adding a bigger chunk of lap time to the car aerodynamically, McLaren probably won't have any upgrades here. That's the difference.
It's the way that they have to work because they have to catch us up. Everything that they get in the windtunnel they're going to have to be throwing at the car. Same with Ferrari and some of the other top teams that aren't quite as competitive. Whereas I think we can be a little bit more controlled. We have the pace at the moment and everything we put on the car has to be a good amount better. It's no use just getting loads of little bits and throwing them together. it's got to be a controlled update.
Q. Is it too early to think about the championship and start driving with points in mind?
JB: Yeah, it is. I haven't experienced it before, but obviously between first and second there's only two points difference. It's a little bit frustrating when you've won three races and you've got a 12-point lead. I think we need to concentrate on this weekend. You've got to be aggressive at this point in the season. It might all go wrong, but you've got to be aggressive, because if you potter around and pick up the points, you haven't got a chance when it comes to the end of the year. You have to be fighting for a win at every race you go to. If I didn't in Bahrain, we probably would've finished second or third.
Q. Have you discussed that with Ross Brawn?
JB: We all agree. You can't start thinking about the championship yet, and I don't think any team would after four races. You've got to take every race as it comes and take the best out of what we have at every race we go to. We've got to be up there challenging for the win every time. You have one reliability issue and you've lost 10 points, then I've got a two point lead and that's it.
It can turn around so quickly. We've seen it many times, especially between Michael (Schumacher) and Fernando (Alonso) back in 2006 when they both had an engine problem at the end of the year and it just cost them masses. It's so important to be reliable, but my point is that you've got to be very aggressive at this point in the year to get as many points as you can. You can't settle for a second or third. We don't have enough of a lead yet.
Q. Do you feel you're in a better position to control the pressure of a title fight at this stage in your career?
JB: I'm in a good position. I've been in Formula 1 now for nine years so I have the experience, and now I've got a car that I can challenge for race wins with, and still have the excitement. I don't feel 29, I feel a lot younger.