Jenson Button Q&A

After switching to BAR-Honda this year, Jenson Button had a promising, yet sometimes frustrating, season with the Brackley-based squad. A pair of fourth places and a points tally of 17 wasn't bad, but after four years in the top flight, that podium finish continues to prove elusive for the Englishman. He ended the season on a high note, however, leading both the US and Japanese grands prix and helping the team to fifth in the constructors' championship. A portent of things to come, or another false dawn for BAR? Charles Bradley caught up with Jenson in London recently to find out

Jenson Button Q&A

"There's a long way to go still before the first race. That's a good thing, because we've got a lot of work still to do in every area. I've been to the factory on a number of occasions since Suzuka, and everyone seems very positive. But we're staying calm, because it's important to get the work done and not get too over excited about things. I don't want to hype things up too much, but I think everyone in the team is expecting a good step forward next year."

"Yeah, definitely. The first race is always very interesting, and you never quite know where you are. I think we can be very strong next season. I think after the Malaysian GP we'll see exactly where everyone is. Hopefully we'll have made the right steps forward to challenge the top teams."

"I feel it's more the results of the last few races - or what should have been even better results. I think that has given everyone a boost. You've got to be careful not to relax because things are going more smoothly, and I know everyone is working really hard at the moment. They know that if we do get the job done right, then we can really do something special next year."

"It is a bit different. Friday is much the same as before [pre-2003], but Saturday is a lot different and it's going to be interesting. Because qualifying is so close, I don't know if teams take the fuel out for the first session just to get a good slot for the second one, or if they'll run the same fuel to get used to the how the car is going to feel for the run that counts. I think you'll see some very strange positions in the first part of qualifying and then the second one will be pretty standard, and all the top people should be at the front in every race."

"I think you'll have to be a little careful in the first session not to throw the car off. They're not going to pick up the car and bring it back to the pits, so that means using the spare car. The second one is the session everyone will be concentrating on."

"Very well, he's a really good guy. He's had a lot of experience in 2003 with the car, he knows how everything works. He knows all the engineers pretty well, which helps. We'll have to see what he can do in testing with the new car, and hopefully he can send us in the right direction when I'm not testing."

"I don't know anything about that at the moment. As far as I know they've just talked about it."

"It's difficult to say - you just don't know. Anything could happen over the winter. Michelin made a good step forward last year over the winter, but they [and Bridgestone] are both huge manufacturers who can make leaps forward when they put their minds to it and go in the right direction. It's very difficult for anyone to say which tyre they would rather be on at this stage."

"I don't go into every race aiming to be on the podium, I go into every race aiming to win it. Maybe I'm going to be one of those drivers whose first time on the podium will be on the top step. We'll have to wait and see. I feel I've been a bit unlucky in that regard. People say you make your own luck, but the problems I've had not getting on the podium haven't been down to me. The only good thing is when I do eventually get a podium it's going to be an amazing feeling! It's going to be pretty special. But I don't want to just get one podium or win next year, the big thing next year is that we need to be consistent. If you look at 2003, nobody was really that consistent. That's our big aim for 2004."

"I think we all need to start proving something next year, but it's not a case of me proving something to the team or them proving something to me. We need to work together to move forwards. If they think I need to improve something, then they'll help me, and I'll do the same thing for them."

"The team knows it needs to improve in every area. The package was good in 2003, but we need to step up our game. At the start of the year the car was working really well, but we didn't really make enough improvements throughout the season. We know that, so let's see what happens next year."

"Yes, I think so. We've had a lot of talks over the year about which direction they want to go and what we think is the correct direction. We're pretty happy with the way things are going at the moment."

"It's not just one area we had problems with last year, it was quite a few. We've got to make sure that doesn't happen again. To be a top team you can't afford reliability problems. At Ferrari, Michael [Schumacher] hasn't had a reliability problem in 44 races or something. That's the level we need to achieve if we want to compete against them. We've got to have that same reliability."

"I went to China straight after Suzuka and it pee-ed down with rain! It was a very interesting place. The circuit is kind of on a paddy field - it's mad! They've done so much work underground, to make the surface solid, it's unbelievable. I think they've done more under the ground than they have on the surface! But it's very impressive. The facilities really do set a new standard for Formula 1, I've not seen anything like it and I think people will be pretty shocked when they see how good they are. I really enjoyed going there. And Bahrain, again, they were such hospitable people. It was great to be the first driver to go to both venues, I hope it gives me a head start for when we go there for real."

"They both look like good circuits for racing, with lots of overtaking places. Personally I'd prefer a few more quick corners, because that's what I enjoy most, but I think you'll see plenty of good racing there."

"Well there's only 17 at the moment, because Canada is still not 100 percent, but there's three back-to-back races. I think that will be great for drivers, quite exciting, but there won't be any time for development work in between them, which is the biggest problem."

"There's going to have to be a lot of work done previous to them. Race teams don't like putting parts on a car without testing them first. That's a slight problem, but it will be the same for all of us."

"I was disappointed at Suzuka not to see him there. I think we had a good year together and I think we were very competitive team-mates. We worked very well together, and he had a lot of input into the team, but Takuma has got quite a bit of F1 experience now, and hopefully he'll bring the team a little bit closer to Honda. I can't see any problems on the driving front for 2004."

"Yeah, definitely. The problem is that with the teams he wants to be with, there's no seats. That's his biggest problem."

"Yes, it is really. He is a great driver, and he's done some fantastic things in F1. It's a shame to see him leaving F1, more than anything else."

"The end of November. I'll be in the car on the first day of testing, and I'll be doing quite a bit of driving over the winter."

"With the way the it is going, nothing has been decided exactly what we'll be testing, but it will be something that will be heading somewhere towards the new car."

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