Jenson Button Q&A

After all the ballyhoo of his debut season in Formula 1, Jenson Button came down to earth with a bump in 2001. His move to Benetton looked like a sensible alternative to Williams, but the radical Renault engine and some basic chassis problems made life difficult from the start. Giancarlo Fisichella did a better job of getting to grips with the package, and Jenson was in the Italian's shadow for most of the season. He also came under enormous pressure from team boss Flavio Briatore. But he survived, and is looking forward to a second year with the team with renewed confidence. Adam Cooper spoke to the Brit at the end of a difficult season

Jenson Button Q&A

"It's obviously been very difficult, and a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. It's not just that the car has been off the pace over the season, but also not being able to work with it. But hopefully I can put that all behind me. It has improved all the way through the season, not just the car, but also me. I've got to grips with it a lot more, and I understand my engineers a bit more now, which obviously helps."

"We were also just a bit unlucky in some ways. The reliability was better at the end of the season, and we were able to do as many laps as we wanted, and get through our programme, which was great. That's been a big thing - it got a lot more reliable so we were able to do more laps, get more information and do our test programme, instead of doing a quarter of it or whatever. We're definitely not out there just to finish now. We need to push hard and get points."

"Yes, but then again you could look at a lot of other races that could have been good. It's just the way it is."

"No, I don't think it was a problem. It's something we had to test, and in testing sometimes we did one day of testing tyres when you don't get to test anything on the car. That didn't help, but it's good to actually work with the tyres and do the test ourselves, and not just listen to what other people have thought, because some of the teams seem to like other tyres than us."

"They have made steps, all the way through the season. They've gained a lot, but obviously there's a lot more to come still, as it's the first year with the engine. I don't think it's up with the Williams, or Ferrari or McLaren, but it's looking a lot better than it was. And the main thing is that they keep improving it, which is good. Pretty much every race we got a new spec, and the engine was always something different. It's good, and very promising for next year."

"Most of it's aerodynamic. It's amazing how much you can change with just a wing on the car."

"Just little bits all the way through. In Hungary we had a new front wing and a few other things, which didn't seem to work amazingly well there, but the first time on the car it's always difficult. After then the car seemed to work a lot better, and get better every race. A lot of people said wow, you've made a big step overnight, but it's taken a helluva long time. It's taken a lot of weekends to get where we are, and it's been very gradual. We were 16th in the first race, and then we dropped back and we were 20th, and then we moved up to 15th and 16th, and then made another step forward again. It's taken a long time to get here, and it's all because of little changes that have really helped throughout the season."

"That was quite scary, both of us being overtaken by Alonso - or lapped by Alonso!"

"I think he's very quick around Spa, but obviously the car had to be quick also. He wasn't as quick as the McLarens and Ferraris, but the car was quick there, and also at Monza the car would have been quick in the race, if he didn't have his problems and I didn't do what I did on the first corner. The race set-up seemed to be very good compared to a lot of teams that were in front of us."

"The first corner was entirely my fault, and it was a mistake. Some other people have made mistakes at the start as well. I didn't see anyone being careful - everyone seemed to be locking up into the first corner. It's a difficult one. If you're doing something artificial it's always dangerous anyway. We were told by Flavio that we were racing. We can't just drive in single file if he doesn't want us to do that."

"Obviously we couldn't chose what we wanted. It's a really difficult situation for a driver. In one aspect it was a difficult weekend for everyone after what happened in America and what happened to Zanardi, so I understand that side. But then again we're here to race. Why did we qualify and why did we do everything else? There were a few drivers who were in between. It's a very difficult thing. You don't want to look the bad boy, but we're there to race. That's what we're there for."

"We'll be fine!"

"Obviously people can think what they want, and everyone's got their own opinion. But I know what I'm capable of, and that's what really matters. It's obviously nice if people think you're doing well. Quite a few people have said a few things, but I'm sure they've had bad times as well in their careers. It's the normal thing. I haven't had the best year, and people can say what they want. It's fair enough."

"He's quick, very quick. I didn't know what to expect, but he's a very quick driver. He's fitness level was a lot higher than it was last year, and he's done a great job. On some occasions even when everything's been good it's been quite hard against him. In the last few races it was a lot closer, which is the way it should be. But he's quick, and I think a lot of people will find that out when he goes to Jordan."

"Everyone looks at your last performance, and I don't think they should do so much. But he's done a great job this year, and he deserves a good drive. But we'll see what he can do against DC, in a new team like McLaren. But I think I'd rather be here next year, anyway. I think it's a good place to be next year, and I'm very confident that they can do very well."

"They will actually have time to build the next car, they won't be rushed into it. I don't think Mike [Gascoyne]'s input was as big as everybody would have liked it to be on this car at the start of the year, but I think that will show next year in the car. With November and December off, Renault haven't got to have any engines going out, and I think they'll be able to work very well. They are an amazing company, and I think they'll be up there next year. I'm not sure if we'll be winning races, or fighting for the championship, but we'll be a lot closer."

Button insists he's happy with Renault

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