Q & A with Jenson Button

Q. When you did the deal with McLaren, when you started the season, did you really feel deep down that you would have a start to the year like you have had?

Q & A with Jenson Button

Jenson Button: I didn't really think where I would be after four races. That wasn't my aim at the start of the season. My aim at the start of the season was the obvious thing - to settle in and feel at home, work on the car and make it a bit more my own because people do drive differently and have different styles. Fitting into a new cockpit and what have you is all new to me, so basically I didn't know where I would be after four races - but I can say that I am very happy.

It is funny because I have won two races and I am leading the championship, but it can easily swing around. And that is the thing with this year. It has been so, so close with the points and people have been changing around with every race. And I have a ten point lead, but in old money that is not quite the same is it - I think it would just be four points.

When I came in and saw that I had a ten point lead I was very excited, and I thought damn, it is just four points. So it is not quite what it looks and after one race things can turn around very quickly. But the thing we have to take away from the first four races is that we haven't had the quickest car.

I would say the Red Bulls have had the quickest hand, they have been quickest in qualifying - although I think our car was quick in the wet in China and it has been in other races as well. But over the whole weekend we haven't had the quickest car but we've come away with the most points, so we've had a good four races. Now though we have to start working on improving the car so we can challenge the Red Bulls. It is not always going to be like this, you cannot go through a whole season and not put it on pole and the front row and win the championship. It is going to be very, very difficult.

So we have our heads down. The last few weeks have been very, very busy even though we had the issue of all getting home. But I think that we have done a great job of bringing the new parts to the circuit. I don't know if it will be enough to really challenge with the Red Bulls, I really don't know, but I hope it is. We will get out there tomorrow, work with them and see if we can balance the new parts we have, because it is not just a matter of sticking the new stuck on the car and going a massive chunk quicker.

You have to work with it, you have to balance it and that is what we will be doing tomorrow. You have to hope that our package is bigger than other people's, and I don't know if that is going to be the case. If it is not we will just get back there and work on improving the car for the next few races.

Q. You said in January that you were looking at the way in the past that very few world champions go on to win another world championship, and were applying all the reasons why certain champions did it to your approach at McLaren. Do you think what has happened at the start of the season is the result of that work?

JB: I think so. This team is very good at not just working on the engineering side of things, they work on every area. My time in Finland was very useful - and that is where I got told that only 30 per cent of sportsman go on to win again after they have won the world championship once. So it was a very useful time there and made me think of other areas that maybe I hadn't thought of before.

I think some of it is having the confidence and belief after winning the world championship, but I also like the situations that we have found ourselves in after the first four races. The two tricky races I've really enjoyed, and I like those situations. You are not always going to read the conditions correctly, and I wish I could but getting as close to reading the conditions closely is great, and so far it has worked very well. But I am sure there will be races where I won't read the conditions correctly. I have heard it might be wet here as well, which might be interesting.

Q. You talked last year about the pressure of the last few races and how it affected you. How different was it at the start of this year when it must have been the complete opposition and you didn't have any pressure?

JB: It was. You read a lot of stuff in the press and there are always positive comments and there are always negative comments.

Q. But you were almost the underdog....

JB: It was amazing that you can win the world championship and come into a team as the underdog, which is a great position to be in because you are new to the team, the new boy in the team but you have had ten years of experience. So I was very relaxed the first four races. I didn't really have a goal of where I wanted to be after four races when we headed back to Europe. My goal really was to make sure that I felt at home within this team and that was the most important thing for me. So it has been a great four months, but I am still not 100 per cent in the car. There are still things we are working on to suit my style, it takes a bit of time. But we are getting there.

Q. Has the pressure thing changed for you now that you are leading the championship?

JB: I don't feel under pressure at all. I feel great. Last year in the middle of the season it was very tough for me. We had a situation where the car didn't really work in cool conditions and I struggled even more, because of the way I drive. So it was a tough time, but I think getting through that tough time really does help you when you start a new season in a new environment and are out of your comfort zone. Considering all that I am pretty happy where I am, and having said that I know that I cannot rest. It is flat out from here on, because it could quickly turn around. But I don't think I could have wished for any more after four races this season.

You always want to have a perfect weekend, you always want to have a perfect season - and the first race for me was not a very good races. It was a difficult race for me, so I still regret that race but that is the way I am. Within a championship year, when you are fighting for the championship, not all races are good so you have to try and forget about the bad races and concentrate on the good ones - and how you felt at the race weekend and before that race weekend. So heading into the next weekend, you come into it more confident and more relaxed.

Q. You mentioned you didn't have any goals coming into the season, now that you have had the start you have had and leading the championship, have you now set yourself any goals?

JB: If you are in a competitive car this year, you want to fight for the world championship. And I am no different - so that has to be the goal for all of us. It is not just me.

Q. And it is a realistic goal now isn't it?

JB: Yes, but it is not as easy as saying it and thinking it. We need to keep working on improving this car, because I don't think we are quite there yet. I know there is more to come and I know this team is good at improving a car throughout the season, and that is what we definitely need. It is a development race from now on. Reliability is important and I think we have very good reliability compared to some teams. So making the right calls and the development race, it is going to be important.

And being relaxed and not feeling too under pressure is going to be important this year. Taking points when you can is important. There are a lot of quick cars out there, a lot of very talented drivers and consistency is important - and I don't mean consistently finishing seventh and eighth, but being near the front is very important. It doesn't sound very exciting, I know, but that is the way it is.

Q. Do you worry that further down the line you and Lewis will start taking points from one another?

JB: Personally, I hope my biggest rival this year is Lewis. That would be the perfect season because it means we have a competitive car. Whether that's the case, I don't know. We'll have to see. We're just getting our heads down and working. We're going to take points from each other, but that will be the same at other teams as well. There are no team orders in Formula 1!

At Red Bull you've two very quick drivers, same at Ferrari, and at Mercedes Michael will improve and we'll see a competitive Michael again. I don't think we're different to other teams. We'll see other team mates take points off each other, just like we will do.

Q. What do you think of the idea of splitting qualifying in Monaco?

JB: I don't think it's a bad idea. Having 24 cars on the circuit is going to be tricky, and it's not just that it's 24 cars as you do still have cars that are six seconds off the pace. It's going to be very tricky to get a lap, and you might find a quick car out in Q1, so I don't think splitting it will be a bad thing.

Q. What sort of weekend are you expecting this time out?

JB: It's important we have a dry weekend. If it's wet and we have a good race, it's great and we get some good points. But we need to know where we are, to work with the car we have and with the new parts we have. It's an important race for us, for everyone, this weekend, to know where they stand in comparison to others.

Q. Is that more so for qualifying than the race?

JB: I think so. This is a tough circuit as well, tough on tyres, especially with a lot of fuel on board. It is also bad for overtaking. It is difficult to overtake. But I don't think it is just about qualifying here because it is tough on tyres. So we will take a lot of useful information away from this circuit. We want to get the best result we can, but it is important for us for the rest of the year to know if we're going in the right direction with the car.

Q. If it is about tyres, that means you must feel you can cope with that?

JB: I don't know, we'll see. Sometimes even my style is tough on tyres, so it matters which tyre it is on the car, so we'll see. Tomorrow will tell us a lot more. We still won't know where we are compared to everyone else, but we'll know where we are with our car and which end is the problem - if there is an end that's the problem and whether the aero is doing the right stuff.

So it's an important couple of days. I don't think it will tell us who is going to be at the front for the rest of the year. But for development purposes it's important for everyone to know where they are. This weekend won't decide the championship.

shares
comments
Button eager to see McLaren's true pace
Previous article

Button eager to see McLaren's true pace

Next article

Barrichello hopeful on Cosworth update

Barrichello hopeful on Cosworth update
Load comments
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

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
What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention Plus

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention

After a disastrous 2020 in which it slumped to sixth in the F1 constructors' standings, Ferrari has rebounded strongly and is on course to finish third - despite regulations that forced it to carryover much of its forgettable SF1000 machine. Yet while it can be pleased with its improvement, there are still steps it must make if 2022 is to yield a return to winning ways

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021