Button Lowers the Bar for Malaysia

Even with a fresh engine in his car, Jenson Button does not expect BAR to be challenging for victory in Malaysia this weekend

Button Lowers the Bar for Malaysia

A year on from the first podium finish of his Formula One career, the Briton played down his chances at the steamy Sepang circuit on Thursday after a disappointing Australian season-opener.

"I really do think we'll be strong here," he said. "We're not going to be challenging for a win but we're going to be a lot closer to the front than we were in Melbourne.

"I think if we get the strategy right, as I'm sure we can, there's a good chance that we can be fighting for a top five position I would say," added the 25-year-old, who craves a first Grand Prix win and has made that his season's aim.

Last year Button sprayed the champagne after finishing third, stepping up for the first of 10 podium appearances during the course of an outstanding season that saw previously under-performing BAR end as overall runners-up.

The new season has started very differently. Renault, who won in Melbourne with Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, and McLaren look like the biggest threat to Champions Ferrari now.

"When we got into clear air (in Melbourne) the pace wasn't too bad, we were around the same laptimes as the Williams, a little bit slower than the McLarens and Renaults," said Button.

"It's not as bad as it looks but still we do need to improve," added the Briton. "The balance isn't too bad but just aerodynamically I think we are lacking compared to the top teams at the moment. But I think here is a circuit that should suit our car quite well."

Engine Strategy

Honda-powered BAR exploited a loophole in the regulations in Melbourne by retiring both cars just before the finish.

That enabled Button and Japan's Takuma Sato to change engines for Sepang without incurring the 10-place starting penalty that would otherwise apply for drivers failing to use the same engine for two successive races.

The governing FIA closed the loophole on Wednesday, saying a distinction will now be made between failing to finish and choosing not to. Other teams had already complained that BAR's move went against the spirit of the rules but Button defended his team.

"The rules are the rules, they are what they are and they say you can change your engine if you stop before the chequered flag," he said. "I can't really see what the issue is. The team made sure with the FIA beforehand that this was the case...and that's it."

Malaysia can take a heavy toll on engines and drivers, with soaring temperatures and high humidity, coming at an early stage in the Championship when teams are still wrestling with reliability issues.

"I think people will suffer," said Button, whose rivals will be using engines that have already gone a race distance.

"Either they are going to have to change their engine after Friday practice or they will really have to turn it down for the race. I think some teams will struggle so it should help us. So I think it was the right thing to do for the team."

 

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