Q & A with Jenson Button
|By Steven English||Monday, March 1st 2010, 17:21 GMT|
After the end of pre-season testing at Barcelona, Jenson Button returned to the McLaren factory to wrap up his preparations for the race of the year.
The world champion spoke to the press about his prospects for the upcoming season.
Q. Jenson, how is McLaren looking after the end of testing?
Jenson Button: Our chances our good. In testing the car has been running very reliably, which is always important heading into a long season. The last day I drove in the test we had a new package on the car, aero package, which worked well.
I didn't really get a lot of time with it because it was wet in the morning, but I did a race run in the afternoon and some low-fuel runs in the afternoon also, and everything was working very well, so I'm happy with the way the car feels, but I still feel there is room for improvement.
I think the next day with Lewis they tried a few of the ideas that we had on the previous day and he seemed reasonably happy with the car. So we go to Bahrain with a package that I feel is going to be competitive, because the balance is good and the reliability is good, but we don't know how quick we are going to be compared to the Ferraris or the Red Bulls or the Mercedes yet.
Those three teams are the main ones really. I think a couple of other teams have built cars that are competitive at the moment, but I don't think they will be as good with updates probably as those four teams. I think Bahrain is going to be a great race and a fantastic way to start the season, with so many teams that are competitive and drivers also.
Q. How comfortable do you feel in the car now?
JB: We've done a lot of work to get the moving bits in the car out of the way so I can sit, and I'm very comfortable now, very happy. It's been really good. They really listened to what I said and adjusted things immediately and it's amazing how quickly we have been able to get a seat.
New carbon seats have only taken a few days, which is very surprising. I'm comfy in the car and it's good to be comfy already for the first race. I want to be 100 per cent ready when I get there. It took us a little while, but I'm really comfortable in the car now. No complaints.
Q. How comfortable are you feeling with the car with the heavy fuel loads?
JB: I'm fine with it. The car works very differently from high to low fuels loads, the balance of the car. I'm happy with the way the car felt. It did spit with rain when I was running, but the pace was good. I was very happy with the pace. It is a different way of driving than last season.
We do have to look after the tyres a little bit more, because normally we ran with sort of half that fuel load at most. It's tough on the tyres and you really have to work the tyres on the right manner. You have to really work with the tyres and it's important to have a lot of information and work closely with Bridgestone, because I think that will be key to a good race in Bahrain.
Q. What impact do you think the fuel loads are going to have on the racing?
JB: I think, looking at testing, we are going to get a lot of very unusual strategies in the race. I think the top teams will have similar strategies. I think you are going to have some teams trying to sort of stop two or three laps before their rivals so they can get out on new tyres and maybe bump them.
You'll also have the teams that aren't so competitive trying crazy strategies like pitting after lap one and hoping to run to the end of the race. So there will be lots of different strategies which will make it exciting for the viewers and exciting for you guys. But the problem is that for us it's very difficult to know what the strategy is.
You can't plan in advance. All you can do is go through every scenario and be ready when you have to jump on a strategy change, because it's really dependant on what the people around you are doing with strategy. It's going be a busy Sunday afternoon for the engineers. They have to try and read every situation.
Q. Can you talk about the benefits of your driving style and any problems with getting them switched on for qualy. To what extent when you in the long race runs are you trimming the car with adjustable front wing?
JB: We didn't have an adjustable front wing for most of the winter so it's been quite difficult during long runs, because the way the car works now with high fuel loads you really are adjusting the front wing a lot.
So having an adjustable front wing in the last test was great, you are playing with that a lot as the fuel load comes down you are adjusting the front wing, and also through every stint you are adjusting the front wing. So that is key and the reliability of that front wing is also important.
My driving style I think it does work with the new regulations. I think most drives on the grid can adapt to it, we've seen that in testing. It's still a different way of driving for me because it is like an endurance race. It's like driving at Le Mans, you really have to look after the tyres at the start of the stint. If you damage the tyres on lap three you are screwed for the whole stint. You really have to be very gentle with the car.
Sometimes it just feels like you are driving around, instead of pushing the car, but you can still get a good lap time out of it, which I suppose is a positive. It's going to be an interesting afternoon in Bahrain. I think we are going to learn a lot there. We've learned a lot already, but we'll really understand what other people are up to and what sort of strategies are going to work for us for the rest of the year.
Q. Is this the most excited you've felt at the start of a season?
JB: Yeah. I mean, last year I was very excited. I had a car that was.. while we all knew that it was capable of winning the first race, after the position we were in, when we didn't even think we'd be on the grid.
So arriving in Melbourne was pretty exciting. But this year I'm more excited because of the competitiveness of the four top teams, plus Sauber and Williams. And having Michael in the sport, which I think is great for the sport and I'm looking forward to go head to head with him.
Also having Lewis as a team-mate. He's an exceptional driver and it's a really challenge, an exciting one. And Fernando in a Ferrari. There is so much change this year, I think it's all positive for the sport. Last year we had some negative publicity, which is more away from the circuit than the actual racing.
But this year I would say it's been fantastic, because of the publicity we've had, with world champions in competitive cars, new teams coming in. This is great for F1 and hopefully it's going to get more supporters and fans interested in the sport. I can't wait for the first race. I think it's going to be a very special season.
Q. The pace of the McLaren has been very competitive, but more important is the speed over long runs and the lap time drop-off. How do you feel that's been going?
JB: In Jerez I think Lewis and myself found it reasonably difficult and I think it's because it was so cold. It's difficult to get the tyres working. But in Barcelona on my run on Saturday it was still quite difficult because it rained that morning, but I overtook Rubens twice, I overtook Nico, I overtook Pedro, I overtook a lot of people on my long run, so the pace was obviously good.
Compared to the Ferrari if you look at the race distance we did, we came on top, but again you don't know what they are doing.
The pace seems good, and then Lewis on Sunday was very quick. Keeping the tyres in good conditions is important. It seems like a lot of cars can be quick over one lap, but getting it to work over a race distance is obviously more difficult. And to see the times coming down on Lewis's run yesterday was very positive. I'm happy with the consistency.
Q. Do you think the performance of the cars will change from circuit to circuit like it did last year?
JB: I don't think quite as much. I think the Red Bull is extremely strong in high-speed corners, and the Brawn was not so good, but it was very good in middle and low speed. I don't think that's quite the case this year. The way the cars are working aerodynamically is a lot more similar than last season.
There might be slight differences, but I'm not sure. We'll know a little bit more after Melbourne, because in the first race in Bahrain there's not really that much high speed, especially with the new section of the circuit. We'll have to wait and see in Melbourne or even the third race.