Exclusive interview - Honda's Jenson Button 06 Feb 2007
...on teams, tyres and the British driver invasion
As we eagerly await the launch of Hondas 2007 livery, the RA107 has already been put through its paces sporting its winter testing colours. Together with the teams new car, the New Year also marked the return of Jenson Button to the cockpit. Now fully fit after his end-of-season karting accident, the British driver is looking forward to 2007 with relish
Q: Welcome back! Its been quite a while since weve seen you in the cockpit. How did you spend all those race-free months?
Jenson Button: Thankfully I am now fully recovered from the rib injury, so the last few weeks have been spent focusing on getting myself fit and ready to get back in the car. I have done two fitness camps in Lanzarote, where we concentrated on cardiovascular training with my fitness trainer and physio to put me through my paces. Apart from that I spent some valuable time with my friends and family over the Christmas break which was lovely as I dont get to see enough of them during the season. And, of course, I have done some PR work with the team and been to the factory to see the developments on the new car and for a seat fitting.
Q: With its official race livery yet to be revealed, the RA107 was launched in black in late January. Unfortunately you had to be towed back to the pits on your first lap in the new car. Was the colour an omen?
JB: Not at all. The car is running in our winter testing colours of black and white at the moment until the new livery is launched in the next few weeks. It was a shame that the car stopped on my first lap, but it was just one of those things. The good thing is that there was nothing wrong with the car itself, just a minor fault related to the re-build overnight. Rubens (Barrichello) and I completed over 820 kilometres of running in the RA107 during its first test at the Barcelona circuit in the three days that the new car was on-track, so it was a good first outing overall and last weeks Valencia sessions supported that view.
Q: Some veteran drivers insist they can tell if a new car is a hit or miss even during its initial roll-out. After a seven-year Formula One career, have you developed this knack? If so, what can you say about the RA107?
JB: I drove the car for one day only in Barcelona but it was very productive. The main focus of the day was about running through all the simple things with the car such as basic set-up changes and getting the balance to my liking. We achieved that pretty early on and were able to cover a good number of laps, so it gave me a solid understanding of the car. The first race is some way off and there is a lot to do and improvements to be made, but it was been a productive start for us.
Q: Do you think its the car to continue the teams momentum following your first win in Budapest last year?
JB: We very much hope so and I am very excited about the 2007 season because I believe that the Honda Racing F1 Team can be competitive. We finished last season strongly, when I scored more points than anyone else in the last six races, and I hope that we can carry that momentum into the new season.
Q: And what about the tyres? Honda switched from Bridgestone to Michelin and back to Bridgestone in a short period. You were unable to test before Christmas with the old car on the Bridgestone Potenzas, but have so far completed a limited number of laps in the new car on the new tyres. What are your first impressions?
JB: I was waiting for a long time to get back in the car again and to be honest, I was a little apprehensive because I heard lots of stories about the differences with the tyres. But personally, I think that you can adapt after a few runs and I got to grips with the Bridgestones quite easily.
Q: BMW Sauber are targeting fourth position in the 2007 constructors championship. Red Bull Racing are hoping for fifth. Where do you see Honda?
JB: The most important thing for me going into this season is the atmosphere within the team. Our confidence has been building since the middle of last season and if we can keep that momentum going, then I think we will have a good season.
Q: The first win is always the most difficult. Now that you have that under your belt, what is your personal goal for 2007?
JB: I want to win many races, that's always a driver's aim. But first we have to see what the reality is when we arrive in Melbourne for the first race. Before then, we are just getting our heads down and working as hard as we can to hopefully develop a winning car.
Q: For quite some time you and David Coulthard were the only British drivers on the grid. Now with Anthony Davidson and Lewis Hamilton joining the fray, there are two more. Naturally there will be a pecking order
JB: I think it is great that there are four British drivers on the F1 grid this year and it will be so exciting for the British fans to see us fighting it out. Of course, I am delighted that Anthony has his chance at a race drive as he has helped both me and this team out immensely over the past five years. Lewis is talented and Im sure he will learn a lot from this season, so we all look forward to seeing how the battle goes.