Q & A with Jenson Button

After months of frustration and doubt, Jenson Button is one of the men of the moment as Formula 1 kicks off the 2009 season

Q & A with Jenson Button

The Briton has been tipped as one of the favourites to fight near the top after a sensational testing showing with the Brawn GP car.

AUTOSPORT heard from Button about the season ahead.

Q. How does it feel to be the man of the moment?

Jenson Button: It is quite funny walking into the paddock compared to a year ago, when we haven't even driven on a Grand Prix weekend and already everyone is very friendly. When was the last time I had 10 journalists speaking to me at a briefing?

It's obviously been a bad and good winter, but I'm very happy and I'm in a reasonable position now. We still don't know where we stand. We have to wait until tomorrow really, but all I know is that we've got a good car and it feels good. It's a nice car to drive, a really good car to drive and I feel that I can really push it to the limit. So as far as the feeling goes, it's good.

Q. When you got on the plane to come here, did you feel that you were coming here to win the race?

JB: I came out on Saturday. I've never come out that early before. Normally I fly via Japan. I've been here for a little while and it's quite tough because it's difficult to sleep. It's not just because of the jet lag but because I just want to get the season underway and to see where we stand. But obviously I think every driver will say he wants to win when he gets to Melbourne, but we are in a much better position to do so than we were last season.

I still don't know if we have the possibility, but you come here thinking that for sure. But first of all we've got to think towards tomorrow, because tomorrow is an important day. We can't just get in the car and think it's quick, its' fine and plod round, not showing our hand. We need to do setup work and we still haven't done a lot of laps compared to other teams.

Reliability's been reasonably good but still not enough laps on the car to know that it's 100 per cent reliable. We are putting in a lot of laps tomorrow and also tweaking the car a little more to our styles, because I've only had three days and the weather's been pretty crap when I've driven. It's always been pretty windy or cold. So we need a good day tomorrow and if we have a good day then I think we'll be happy going into Saturday.

Q. But to be so quick with so little testing, that must make you optimistic?

JB: I think we've had a few weeks while other people have been testing to make sure everything is correct on the car. We haven't had to rush anything. And I agree, coming out of the box we were very quick, but that's something that this team's always been good at. Even if we've had a bad car, we go out and our first run in the car is pretty close to as quick as it goes. We don't gain a second and a half over the winter where some teams like Renault, for example, do. And I think McLaren have gained a lot in Jerez.

We always come out and we always get the right setup on the car immediately. So that's a good thing, and we needed to do that because we haven't had much time in the car. It's been good testing. The best bit has been that we've been reasonably reliable so we have been able to fine tune it over the three days I've been in the car.

Q. Would you have imagined in your wildest dreams that last year you would have been in this point in Australia?

JB: That's one of the reasons why we stopped developing last year's car, because we wanted that to be the case this year but you never believe it until you drive a car that is competitive. It's difficult coming from what we had to having a competitive car, but we always knew that halfway through the season we'd stop development because we had to focus everything on 2009. And I think it was the right thing to do. At the time it didn't feel right because the car was bad and we wanted to improve it, and from the drivers' point of view driving a car that is tough to drive is so frustrating.

And then getting to November and hearing that Honda doesn't exist any more - having those two bad years and not working on the car to improve it, was so frustrating. And to get a drive from that would have been very difficult. So I persevered and gave my bit and worked as hard as I could to make sure the team existed.

Q. You've talked about the desire to get out there. Is that something you have not experience for quite some time - perhaps since you first came into F1?

JB: The last two years, coming to the first race, in testing we knew that we weren't competitive and really coming to the first race was really just to show the whole world that we weren't competitive. It's a different situation now.

I think it's not just that we've got a competitive car but that we are here. This is just in a way a slight surprise that we are actually here in Melbourne. That was the first step and that was the first goal and we've achieved that and we've also produced a competitive car.

Q. You have a teammate who has been championship runner-up three times, and won lots of races. Is he your main threat?

JB: Rubens is very quick for sure and we are in a team where we have (equal) equipment, which is as it should be. Towards the end of last year he was very competitive. I think it was a car that suited his style more than mine and we obviously couldn't improve the car to change it to suit me, but compared to last year, the tyres - I much prefer these tyres. I need a strong end to a car. I can't have a front end that is just washing out, and I have that with this tyre, it feels like two years ago to me with the quality of the tyre and the grip it gives you at initial turn in.

I really enjoy driving the tyre and I think that is a big improvement. Last year I wasn't comfortable really with the way the tyre worked, so that on its own is an improvement for me.

Q. You said in Barcelona that you felt reborn, but for Rubens it could be his last season...

JB: Not if he's competitive it won't be.

Q. But he is coming to the end of his career and you have got many years left. Do you feel he is really hungry for this?

JB: For sure he's hungry, but so am I. He's going to be quick for sure and your team mate is always your first competitor. He's always your rival but also being my rival he's also going to be a friend in a way because we need to work together to make sure we are competitive.

If we are not quite where we want to be, we need to keep working together to improve the car. It is a difficult one. I think if we are battling on track, he's going to be a main Rival. But we'll get out of the car and laugh about it after and work together after.

When we've got the helmet off we will be working together, and when we've got it on for sure that won't be the case. That is normal.

Q. Coming into the season and be hailed as a world championship contender, how does it make you feel?

JB: It feels good and it's amazing what, after three days of driving an F1 car in winter testing, people immediately think. They go: wow, look at that. Where's that come from?

It's always been there, but I've just not had anything near the equipment that I deserve and the whole team deserves. We have a car now that is competitive and we've just got to make sure that it stays competitive and we can keep improving it through the year. That is always the key to fighting for a world championship, not that we ever have, but I've been involved in F1 for nine years, this is my 10th year, and it is the key to be consistent through the year but also to keep improving the car all the way through the season.

We've obviously got a good car now, and should be competitive over the first few races, but we have got to hope that we can keep improving like Ferrari, McLaren and other teams over the season.

Q. You've had quite a bit of stick over last season, although the car was rubbish - and John Surtees said last week he would have fired you. Is that a motivation for you?

JB: Not really. I really don't care what they say because they don't know the situation. If they are making those comments they obviously don't know the situation within F1 these days. They can say what they want, for whatever reason. I don't know what they are trying to do, but I really don't mind what people say. It is their opinion.

For me, all I care about is that I am with the team here and we have built something that is good and we haven't experienced that for a couple of years. I'll go out there and do the best job I can and whatever people say, positive or negative. I just hope, more importantly to me, that the fans see the situation and they don't read everything and every comment that someone says. They need to have a bigger picture and realise that one person's comment is not it.

Q. But it will make it much sweeter if you win on Sunday after what people have been saying?

JB: I won't be getting out of the car and going 'I told you so'. I'll be getting out of the car if that does happen and being very happy with myself and very happy with the team. I will not think about what people have said. It won't even go through my mind because that's not important to me.

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