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F1 NEWS 

Button expecting tight fight at the front despite McLaren front row lockout in Australia

Jenson Button, McLarenJenson Button thinks there is still everything to play for between the top teams in the Australian Grand Prix, despite his McLaren team locking out the front row of the grid.

The Briton will start alongside pole position man Lewis Hamilton in Melbourne, with Lotus, Mercedes and Red Bull Racing's fastest men right behind him.

But despite McLaren holding the edge, Button says his outfit is heading into the first race of the campaign with an open mind about the outcome.

"Over a long run I don't think anyone knows who is going to be quick," he explained. "We hope that we are, but I am sure we are going to have some competition over the race distance.

"The Red Bulls obviously were not so quick in qualifying compared to us, but you can never discount them. They will be quick in the race. The same as the Lotus. Their long runs seem pretty good as well, plus there is Mercedes.

"It's those four teams that we have seen over the winter and here this weekend that have been competitive. The gap between those teams, I don't know what it is yet, but I think it will be those four teams fighting at the front."

The mixed weather conditions that have greeted teams this weekend means that there has not been enough time to properly evaluate long-run degradation figures.

And that means teams are heading into the race slightly unsure about how best to choose their tactics.

Button added: "I think most people have done eight laps on a set of tyres, not because they last longer but because of the conditions, and winter testing.

"I think if you look at winter testing too much you can get lost. I think coming here we are very open minded on the race - and we really don't know what is going to happen yet."

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh echoed Button's thoughts that getting through the afternoon with the right approach was important.

"We have had very limited long running here," he said. "It is the first race of the new year with these tyres, and we have to be agile. We need to look at the data and listen to the drivers and between us make sure that while we want tyres to last as long as possible, that we don't hang out there too long.

"Once we get into serious degradation, we will be there with a plan a, a plan b, a plan c and a plan d. We will have a lot more information by lap 10, 12 or 14 tomorrow than we have right in front of us at the moment."

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