Button: waiting for answers Down Under

Button: waiting for answers Down Under
A relaxed Jenson Button was happy to stay in the shade, literally and metaphorically, at Albert Park on Thursday, when he reflected on his BAR-Honda team's progress and predicted a competitive season ahead.

Sweeping aside predictions from various pundits that his progress last year may have been a false dawn, he admitted he was glad to see that other teams and other drivers were being thrust in the limelight.

And, of course, he made it clear he was delighted not only to be back on Australian soil, but back at Albert Park where the sweeping and beautiful road circuit stimulates his love for racing.

"We think we know where we are now," he said, when asked about BAR's current form and potential. "But mainly, it's great to be back in Oz. I like this circuit a lot. Testing is very important, but it's great to go racing as that is what I love.

"I'm not too sure about the car's potential from testing. It was difficult to tell in Barcelona and the first test in Valencia went well, but it seemed that we were lacking a little bit in speed compared to the likes of McLaren and Renault. We couldn't figure out why, we felt we didn't have as much grip as we thought we would have.

"We made a few changes aerodynamically and it's really improved it. I think we have really moved in the right direction. Also, Honda with the engine have made some real progress with reliability. It has not been a perfect winter, but it hasn't been for any team, but we are on the right track now. We are moving forward well."

Button also said that he cared little for the predictions of pundits and critics, but he enjoys not being rated among the favourites. "The things that I have read have been exactly the same, which is a good thing. We can just get on with things we do best and get on with our programme. I do think the McLarens and Renaults are very quick and they seem to be consistent in a long, run but we don't know what they have been doing in testing. We will find out when qualifying comes on Saturday."

He suggested, also, that there may be a widespread lack of respect for BAR in the wake of David Richards' departure. He agreed that the team may be underestimated. "I hope they are [underestimated]. For me, the car is quick, but I don't know how quick we are. In testing the McLaren has always been much quicker and so has the Renault, but we've been quicker than the Ferrari most testing, which is very, very unusual. You don't really know what people are doing in testing.

"Saturday will be good because it will be zero fuel for qualifying. That will be interesting to see where we stand over one lap. We won't know how people's cars are working in the race in terms of tyres and reliability until we get to the race.

"I am happy with the way we have improved the car over the winter. I think it does show the strength of the team because there were some issues. But there are always going to be some issues in winter testing where there have been so many rule changes.

"I think there was a lot of pressure on the team because we had such a good year last year, which doesn't seem to be as much now. The pressure doesn't seem to be on us, so we can relax. We still have to wait and see how quick we are. We seem relatively quick."

On a personal level, he indicated that a win was now paramount. "I have got a lot more experience now. We made a few mistakes last season, but we were unlucky at some times. For example, Hockenheim, where we had engine failure, but that's all down to experience and learning from your mistakes. I think it is important [to win] - not just for the team to be happy winning a race, but it's important for the season.

"I don't think it will be one team winning the first six or seven races like last year. I think it is going to be pretty competitive and hopefully there will be a different winner at every race or close to, which would be awesome for F1 and great for everyone involved.

"If you look at teams that will be challenging Ferrari, they have all made a good step forward and have all got strong cars. We don't know how strong Ferrari are and we don't know how strong their new car will be, but we can look at what package they have at the moment and you can say that they will be quick and competitive for the first four [races]. But for the rest [of the season], we don't know."

Button was reticent to discuss his goals for the season. But, he said, he certainly had them in his sights. "We do set targets for the year - have done for the last three years. But the problem is it's so difficult to do that because you don't want to look too far into the future, because it is so difficult to know what's going to happen with the cars.

"For the next three or four races, we have our goals and targets. If we reach them, it would be great; if we don't, then we have to learn from our mistakes and move forward. I don't think you can ever over-achieve. We didn't expect to be second last year, but over-achieving is not an issue. The team would rather be second than fourth, because it's more money and you have got a bigger garage."

And, of particular relish for him, he is the top British challenger this year. "It's a great feeling to have the support but very difficult to feel that support, especially in F1, because I am halfway round the world and there are not that many British fans here.

"Silverstone was awesome, seeing so many BAR hats. I hope we'll be in the same position as last year, and we can challenge for a podium or for a win. I knew it was going to be difficult last year because I knew how quick the Ferraris were.

"But this year it's going to be a very competitive season in F1, with some very good races, and it won't just be red cars winning, which is going to make a difference I think. It's going to be the best year for a long while."
shares
comments
Grapevine: Thursday Analysis - Australia
Previous article

Grapevine: Thursday Analysis - Australia

Next article

Thursday Press Conference

Thursday Press Conference
Load comments
Why thrilling Jeddah F1 circuit needs to be safer Plus

Why thrilling Jeddah F1 circuit needs to be safer

OPINION: Saudi Arabia's new F1 circuit delivered a memorable first event, although not necessarily for all the right reasons. In the wake of the chaotic race, drivers voiced their concerns about the track but small changes could make significant improvements ahead of a return in four months

The long-term F1 vision causing Haas’s short-term pain Plus

The long-term F1 vision causing Haas’s short-term pain

From ranking as one of the most impressive new teams to join the Formula 1 grid, Haas’s stock has plummeted along with its on-track performances over the past two seasons. Everything now hangs on whether its reforged alliance with Ferrari can deliver a better car – and whether its rookie drivers can set aside their quarrels. OLEG KARPOV asks if any of these goals are achievable…

The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race Plus

The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race

OPINION: Max Verstappen has made the 2021 Formula 1 championship. He’s taken the fight to the all-conquering Mercedes squad and its dominant champion, produced driving displays few can match. But he’s been on a controversial course too, and finally crossed a particular line in Jeddah

Formula 1
Dec 7, 2021
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

An ill-tempered Saudi Grand Prix made Formula 1 more soap opera than sporting spectacle at times, but there were some strong performances up and down the field on the world championship's first visit to Jeddah

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series Plus

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a race packed full of incident as Formula 1 2021's title contenders repeatedly clashed on track. Lewis Hamilton won out over Max Verstappen to level the scores heading into next weekend's Abu Dhabi finale, as Jeddah turned F1 into a drama series

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance Plus

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance

Dropped by Red Bull last season, Alexander Albon has fought back into a Formula 1 seat with Williams. ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains what Albon has done to earn the place soon to be vacated by the highly rated George Russell

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2021
How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes Plus

How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes

Mercedes led the way in practice for Formula 1’s first race in Jeddah, where Red Bull was off the pace on both single-lap and long runs. But, if Max Verstappen can reverse the results on Saturday, factors familiar in motorsport’s main electric single-seater category could be decisive in another close battle with Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1
Dec 3, 2021
Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer Plus

Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer

Earning praise from rivals has been a welcome sign that Lando Norris is becoming established among Formula 1's elite. But the McLaren driver is confident that his team's upward curve can put him in the mix to contend for titles in the future, when he's hoping the compliments will be replaced by being deemed an equal adversary

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021