Jenson Button's victory hopes rest on early Vettel assault
|By Jonathan Noble
||Sunday, October 9th 2011, 03:58 GMT
Jenson Button thinks that his hopes of victory in the Japanese Grand Prix may rest on him getting past Sebastian Vettel into the first corner at Suzuka.
Although the McLaren has appeared to be a match for Red Bull Racing on single lap pace this weekend, the Friday long-run speed of Vettel and Mark Webber has left the team unsure about its chances in the race.
And, allied to the difficulties that cars will have keeping close enough to their rivals ahead of the DRS detection point on the exit of 130R, Button is open-minded about his prospects - especially with tyre degradation expected to be so high.
"It is a difficult situation we are all going to find ourselves in," said Button. "On Friday we had massive degradation with the tyres, but we have seen it before that on Sunday it is a completely different story.
"The first few laps are about really trying to find our feet and seeing what the balance is like, whether we have made the right choice in terms of wing, but also working out whether the degradation is going to be as bad as Friday or better. So it is not going to be a straightforward race.
"Our aim is to get into the lead as soon as possible, which is obviously Turn 1, so we will give that a go. But if that doesn't work, then hopefully we will have another opportunity during the race."
McLaren's latest specification rear wing, which has an improved DRS specification that is better for qualifying, has helped the outfit – but Button is unsure about its ability to help in the race because of where the DRS zone is.
"It benefits us more in qualifying because it is a more efficient wing when using DRS," he said. "It takes us to the level of the Red Bulls and the Ferraris in terms of how much drag you take off when using DRS.
"The good thing is when you are close enough to the car in front you get to use it again, so it seems to be worth a lot here. There is a difference between qualifying and the race with the fuel loads, plus because it is quite hilly around here you feel the car struggles to pull some times. It is not just us it is everyone out there.
"You will get a big benefit from using a good DRS, but getting close enough on the exit of 130R – that is going to be quite tricky."
Button thinks that McLaren's form this weekend, where it has taken the fight to Red Bull Racing, is the result of a genuine step forward in pace for high-speed circuits.
"I think our car has been good on this type of circuit for a couple of races now," he said. "At Spa we were very strong all the way through the weekend, and it seems we've really improved the car in medium and high speed corners – especially compared to the Red Bull. They have been very, very strong in high speed corners for many years now.
"We seem to be up there with them now which is good. And we had the confidence on Friday to really push the car, tweaking it here and there, and again in FP3, and in qualifying.
"I ended up getting very high on the front wing at the end of qualifying. It did give me a really good front end, but it seemed like it was taking away a bit of rear as well. So I don't feel that I had the perfect balance.
"But it seemed like it was very close to being the perfect balance. With what I had, I personally feel I did as good as I could have done, and it is just disappointing to be so close and to still be starting the same distance behind pole position. Hopefully the race will be a slightly better day."