World champion Jenson Button expressed himself happy with his first official day's running as a McLaren driver. With the team being at the sharp-end in both sessions, a relaxed Button talked to the press about a positive first practice in Bahrain, his first impressions of working with Lewis Hamilton and successfully avoided discussing the controversial new F-duct system on his car. AUTIOSPORT was there to hear what he had to say.
Q. How was the car overall today?
Jenson Button: Yeah we have been working through different balances and different directions. It's been good. I think it is the same for everyone but looking after the rear tyres is very difficult here, especially the softer one, so you are finding yourself driving with a load of oversteer throughout most of the stint on the soft tyre. It's pretty tricky. We did an okay job today and we should be happy with the performance of the car, we know there is areas we need to work on. The basic car is working well, but we are not quite there with the balance yet I don't think. There were a few things that we wanted to really try but you don't get enough time when you are doing long runs.
Q. How did you like the new section of the track, it seems very bumpy?
JB: It is very bumpy. Trying to concentrate for the next corner is very tricky because you are going over those bumps through Turn 6 and your head is bouncing all over the place, no matter how strong your neck is. It is pretty tricky, but that's what we have got and we will deal with it. The rest of the new section is pretty smooth, which is nice. It's slow but it is a good place to lose a lot of time, so you have to be careful through.
Q. You have less tyres for qualifying tomorrow, will that be difficult?
JB: There is going to be a lot of rubber down tomorrow which is a good thing. Obviously we do have less tyres, which will mix it up a little bit when you run new tyres. But we have just got to hope that we are very quick in Q1 and we don't have to run new tyres. I'm sure that's not going to be the case because you have got three teams that are not as quick as the rest, but then the rest are very tightly packed.
Q. Even though it is Friday, can we see any evidence of the balance of power here?
JB: I think if you look at the times you'd day the Mercedes is very quick over one lap; the Ferrari is very consistent on its long runs and that's all we really know at the moment.
Q. Do you have a car quick enough to stick on pole tomorrow?
JB: I don't know. We will have to wait and see. I was reasonably happy today. I was a bit frustrated with the two shorter runs that I did because I had traffic on both of them, cars that were just pottering around really. But that is the way it is in practice. The thing is with having six cars a little bit of the pace, and one in particular, it's quite tricky to try and get a gap to the car in front because you really don't know what fuel they are running and how much slower they are going to be.
But the long runs seem to be positive. The car is going towards oversteer, but that's the same for everyone and it is about managing that situation.
Q. Did you have some graining in the front tyres?
JB: No not really. I don't think anybody would mind a bit of front graining. I think it is mostly pick-up - there is a lot of rubber going down on the circuit in the new section. If you are a tiny bit off line it is very easy to pick up that rubber, so it is important to stay on line.
Q. The end of your first day's practice for McLaren, is the car where you want it?
JB: Not yet but it is getting there. I am reasonably happy with the basic car, but there are areas we need to work on with set-up, which we would like to have done in the second session. It's so busy and you've got to really do a tyre back-to-back, run new tyres to see where the car is. We know where it is now and where we want the car to be so it's not so bad. We will have a long evening and hopefully find some improvements overnight. The shorter runs were frustrating because of the traffic but the long runs seemed reasonably good. I'm quite happy.
Q. When you did your low fuel run was there any point around the track that you found particularly challenging?
JB: Turn six to seven is very tough because you are trying to brake as late as you can. If you do that the car hits the ground and you are bouncing all over the place and it is very difficult to see where you are going. It is pretty tough on your back as well. It's tricky and you have to brake earlier, and very gently so the front doesn't dip and sort of cruise through the corner. In doing so you actually position yourself better for the next corner. If you try and go in too fast, you bounce around, get unsettled and it hurts you for the next corner.
Q. We have been learning all about the little secrets on the car. Can you feel that little bit of straightline speed when you activate the F-duct?
JB: I don't know what you are talking about. Our straightline speed is very good.
Q. How's your knee?
JB: Which one? They are both fine thank you! Aerodynamically I'm reasonably happ with where the car is. I think we all want more downforce, but I'm happy.
Q. Do you think you are calmer now that you have won the world championship and you are with McLaren?
JB: Yes I think so. When you have achieved your goal, you can think 'I have done that, what do I do now?' But while I did think that after Brazil, I have chosen my new challenge which is to race here, which is very exciting to me. I think I needed that challenge. I am very relaxed but in a positive way, not a negative way. I am so hungry, you can't believe it. As a driver and as an F1 fan this should be an exceptional season and that obviously gets you excited.
Q. A lot of people are saying that your smoothness in the car is something that will help you, from the running you have done so far do you think that is the case?
JB: I hope so. The couple of long runs I did today were reasonably good. One side of it you can say that it does help being smoother, another side is that I don't really like oversteer in the car and at the moment I think everyone is getting oversteer in their long runs. I don't know, I feel happy in the car and I feel that I am driving around the problems that you have in a long run, especially with these tyres and this circuit, very well. I am happy where I am.
Q. Are you and Lewis going to prove that you can co-exist happily within a team while both being competitive world champions?
JB: We will give it a go. We get on very well and we know that it is going to be tough on the circuit between us. We are going to be rivals, but to be anywhere near the front we have got to work together and that is exactly what we are doing. It's going well, we have got a lot of feedback. We are both very experienced now and we will see what we can do.
Q. Are you more comfortable with more fuel or less fuel in the car?
JB: I think everyone likes it with less fuel because you can do a lot more with the car. When it is heavy, it is a little bit too lazy. That sounds crazy calling an F1 car lazy, but it is. Any bump on the circuit you really feel and it exaggerates any problem that you do have. So low fuel is better, but high fuel; our pace was okay today but we still need to work on it.
Q. Everybody is talking about the F-duct and it's effect on the rear wing. Can you describe what it is you do inside the car?
JB: Our wing is our wing, and that's the way it is. There is no problem with it, it has been passed by the authorities a couple of weeks ago. That's it. It's an exciting, innovative design and it seems to be working well. I think we would all love more downforce in the cars - we don't have that at the moment - but the straightline speed is reasonably good.