Exclusive interview - Hondas Jenson Button 09 May 2008
Last year happy faces were in short supply at Honda, but it seems that in 2008 smiles are slowly returning to the Japanese squad. The reason for this change in mood has largely been a result of Ross Brawns arrival as team principal.
While Brawn has revitalized the team, Jenson Button has been proving he still has the instinct to seize chances when they arise, most recently in Barcelona, where he scored three points from his sixth-placed finish. And Button is convinced Hondas performance will continue to improve into 2009
Q: A fresh wind blew into the Honda team with Ross Brawn's arrival as team principal. Of course its too early for big changes, but can you explain what steps have been taken since January?
Jenson Button: It is not so much the car itself - its more within the team. Ross has set the technical know-how and the direction. He analysed our weaknesses and has set the course to get it right. It was not just about getting in new people, but making sure that the people act as a team. When you work with a Japanese manufacturer, and have a lot of European employees, you have to make sure that they work together very closely. Its not that they havent done so in the past, but Ross has shown where our deficits were, so there was still room to improve.
Q: The announcement that the teams main focus is already on the 2009 car leaves much room for guessing about the condition of this years machine. Whats your stance on the RA108?
JB: Ah, we still have not given up on 2008. We are not the quickest team at the moment but we are improving with every race. Most people would not have expected us to be anywhere this year so we have made good improvements already. And even for this race weve got more improvements. I am happy how we are moving forward to make sure that in 09 we will be able to show the teams true potential. So in this, yes, the focus is on 09, but we are also working on this car as the improvements we get from this car we can use for next years car.
Q: Barcelona saw you picking up three points - an incredible result when you consider the tight fight for positions six, seven and eight. Did the pre-race test make the difference?
JB: Well, I didnt test in the dry and I did only 40 laps when it was wet, so there was no perfect lap for me, but I think that the team has found a lot in the car - with the new aero package. The first time I drove it was at the race so it took quite some time for me to get used to it. So by the race I felt comfortable with the changes and it has shown in the result. Some will probably argue that I was lucky, but to be lucky you have to be there in that very moment to pick up the points.
Q: Ross Brawn has said that the RA108 should suit Istanbul Park. How likely is it that we will see you be as 'lucky' as you were in Barcelona?
JB: I think Ross is right. This track definitely suits the car better than Barcelona, because Barcelona is very bumpy. This circuit is very smooth so our set-up fits better to the conditions here. And todays two practice sessions supported that. I really felt that we did make a significant step forward. What it means for the race is another matter. And with weather conditions probably tending to rain, the game is wide open.
Q: The podium, however, remains a long way away. The technical superiority of the top teams has created a wide gap in race results, although fans can still enjoy a good scrap in the middle of the field. What must happen to give the midfield runners a chance?
JB: Next years regulation changes will be a big step forward to have a more balanced grid. I think that the advantage that Ferrari, McLaren and now BMW have built over the years will give way to a more equal performance from all the teams. But we have to wait and see what will really happen.
Q: Your future in Formula One racing seems to be knitted with the Honda team. Could you ever imagine moving to another team?
JB: Imagine? Everybodys got imagination and nobody can see into the future. For the moment I am very happy with where I am and I will be with Honda next season. And that is what I am concentrating on.
Q: You already have 141 races under your belt, but you're only 28, so youre still in your prime. People sometimes seem to forget that and frivolously throw you onto the proverbial scrap heap. Is that annoying?
JB: No, not really, because personally I see a big advantage in the fact that I am only 28 years-old but have eight years' F1 experience. That is a valuable commodity!
Q: Jenson, you're another driver with a father in the paddock. In fact, your dad is probably the most faithful of all the Formula One fathers. Is it that you dont want to miss that comfortable feeling?
JB: It is nothing about feeling comfortable. The reality is that I hardly see my father over the race weekend as I am totally concentrating on my job. On the other hand, he loves coming, he loves that his son is racing - under these circumstances, yes, probably we both feel comfortable with our arrangement.