Q & A with Jenson Button

With the 'double-decker' diffuser controversy behind them Jenson Button and the Brawn GP team arrived in China not only as race favourites - after two straight victories in Australia and Malaysia - but also as the leading contenders in the championship fight

Q & A with Jenson Button

The world championship leader spoke to the press in the build-up to round three in Shanghai, and discussed his reversal of fortune and the real advantage he thinks he has on his rivals. AUTOSPORT was there to hear what he had to say...

Jenson Button: "It's freezing, isn't it? I went for a walk around the circuit and it's like Silverstone in winter. I'll have a tea, please..."

Q. Win number three yesterday?

JB: "Not really. It was just a nice feeling to put it behind us and now we can concentrate on doing our proper job. In a way it was expected. You're obviously a bit worried, because you never know what might happen, but it wasn't like a shock when I found out."

Q. You're now the man, the championship favourite...

JB: "Well, I've got a very competitive team-mate who will make life difficult for me and the Toyota looks very competitive, but it's not just Toyota and Williams that have been quick. Red Bull has, too, and I'm sure people will get their acts together very quickly. We've got a head start having done a very good job over the winter, we've obviously done a good job in many areas with our car - not just the diffuser - and I think it's going to take people a little bit of time to catch up.

"They know where they need to improve, though, so they will catch us up, or try to, and it won't be long, for sure. The lack of testing is a good thing for us because we have an advantage and teams can no longer just throw stuff on the car, even if it doesn't look good in the wind tunnel, to see how it performs on the track. Even so, I think people's wind tunnels are very good and I think we'll see a few teams getting close to us and becoming more competitive."

Q. Does it change your mentality starting as race favourite?

JB: "It's quite weird how quickly you can get used to being at the front after two pretty poor seasons. When you get on the podium it's not like, 'Oh my god this is the most amazing experience ever'. It's more a case of, 'OK, we've done that one. Let's move on to the next race'. In a way that's good, I suppose. If I don't win this weekend it will be a slight disappointment, but you have to remember it's a 17-race championship.

"If you go out to win every race and you end up being disappointed to finish second, third or a little bit worse, I don't think you have the right mentality. It's not a one- or two-race season - it's a big event that goes on for a long time and I think you have to be a little bit clever in the way you work, grabbing points when you can. Scoring in every race is the key in F1 and always has been."

Q. When was the last time that you were a consistent pre-race favourite?

JB: "Formula Ford, I suppose, in 1998. It's difficult to answer, really, because in Formula Ford I was a new boy and in F3 I was a new boy with no experience. This is probably the first time it's happened properly in car racing. You might be favourite, but that doesn't make life any easier. The last two races have thrown everything at us to make it more difficult - the safety cars in Australia and the rain in Malaysia. It wasn't an easy race.

"We made four pitstops and I think we were lucky to come out on top in the end. It helps when you're in the lead, though, because you can see what other people are doing with their tyre choices and it helps you make the right calls. If we'd known the race would stop at the end of lap 31, though, I don't think we'd have stopped as often as we did, because we only just won."

Q. Whose idea was it to put Shov [Andrew Shovlin, engineer] up on the podium?

JB: "Ross's. I think he enjoyed himself. It's the first time he's been up there and he said, 'I knew I wouldn't look that special on the podium. I'm an engineer and it was hard not to be a geek', but I think he carried himself well. The funniest moment came when I was spraying the champagne.

"He said, 'Stop it, my eyes are hurting'. I said, 'Shov, we've just won the race' and he was complaining that his glasses were misting up. I thought, 'You just don't get it, do you?' It was great to have him up there and he won't ever forget that moment."

Q. You have a good track record here...

JB: "I like it here. It's quite similar to Malaysia, with some fast, flowing sections such as Turn Six/Seven, and some very slow corners, much slower than you find in Malaysia. I think the layout is quite similar, though, so if you're competitive there you should be on the pace here, too."

Q. Was that the true pace of Brawn just before first stop in Malaysia? How big is your advantage?

"It's a weird one. I was shocked by that lap time and the next one, when I stopped, I would have been another couple of tenths faster. I was surprised I was able to do that time. For sure we're quick, but some of it came from the fact I was stuck behind Trulli. I wasn't flat out when I was behind him so I was looking after my tyres.

"As soon as he moved out of the way I was able to make use of my tyres but I wouldn't have been able to maintain that pace for long if we'd had fuel in the car. The time comes very easily when you have been saving your tyres, but my time was nine tenths quicker than Trulli, which I'm not, and eight tenths quicker than Rubens - and I'm not eight tenths quicker than him.

"I'm sure everyone is going to say we're that much quicker than the field, but it isn't true. You can tell that from qualifying. In Malaysia I was 0.2s quicker than Trulli in Q2 - he's no slouch in qualifying but I don't think I'm too bad, either, and I think that's pretty much where we were in qualifying. We perhaps had a little more in hand during the race, but I don't know how much."

Q. Do you have any fears about the super-soft tyre?

JB: "Bridgestone seems pretty confident so we'll have to see. In Melbourne we thought the super-soft would grain on the first timed lap, but it lasted two or three. I'm not that worried. We'll take all the precautions we can to prepare it for the race and I don't see there'll be any problem getting a lap out of it on low fuel. I don't think we'll see many people using it for the first stint, though, as they did in Australia. Every race is about tyre control and building a good car around the available compounds."

Q. You are renowned for your smooth style. Is that an advantage, given the gulf in tyre specs at every race?

JB: "I hope so but I don't know if that's the case. You say I've got a smooth style and you don't see many big steering angles, but in a way that sometimes damages a tyre more. I carry quite a lot of speed into corners, so I'm loading up the tyres a lot more than some people who brake very late and make the corner into more of a vee. It's not as easy as saying, 'You're smooth, you must look after the tyres'. I get as much tyre damage as my team-mate does."

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