Jenson Button Q&A: we have the hunger to achieve 10 Mar 2009
After more than four months out of the cockpit, the relief was visible in his body language - Jenson Button looked a very happy man as he climbed out of the BGP 001 on Monday, having set a very respectable time in the cars first full day of testing. Its clear Button hasnt lost it. And, against the odds, Ross Brawns new team have given him hope for a good season - probably a better one than 2008
Q: Jenson, you must be pretty happy to be here, arent you?
Jenson Button: Yeah! It has been a pretty stressful winter, not just for myself but the whole team and almost five months out of the car for me. It was nice at the shakedown last Friday when most of the team were able to come down and see us doing the first laps. It was a very emotional day to get out and do a few laps in front of the factory. They have worked very hard to produce a car for this season under very difficult circumstances so I have got to say a big thank you to them. I think that has brought us all a lot closer.
Q: How much were you on tenterhooks thinking the deal wasn't going to go through?
JB: When it was announced last Friday, that was when I knew it was 100 percent. It was just like the initial announcement. We were told the day before the shakedown and the whole factory was in one room. Ross gave a speech and told everyone that we would be racing this year and there was just the biggest round of applause and cheers. Everybody was emotionally involved in this team after what we have been through.
Q: Did you have a plan B?
JB: Not racing! I really wanted to be with this team in 2009 and that is why I turned down all other possibilities. This is for sure the best choice for me.
Q: How did you prepare through the winter?
JB: I was going to the factory a lot more than I normally do and spending time in the simulator, which is not the most enjoyable thing - but necessary. I think we have got our simulator to a pretty good standard now. I also did a lot of fitness training and a few other things to keep me busy, but yeah it has been a tough winter because when you are not testing - I obviously have other things going on in my life - you are thinking about racing, thinking about the future a lot. When you are in a team that you have a long-term contract with, you don't worry about the future because you know you have a seat there unless something goes drastically wrong. So being sat at home thinking 'wow, this has all suddenly come to a stop very quickly', and thinking that maybe I wouldn't be racing in 2009 was very tough. So a lot of fitness training took my mind off it and I got my kicks that way for a little while.
Q: There are reports that you made some big sacrifices to help save the team. Is it true that you have taken a pay cut?
JB: Yes. I don't want to talk about contracts but I think it is necessary for all the people that are involved to sacrifice certain things. I want to go racing and I am so happy that the team is on the grid - that is the most important thing for me. Whatever people have said about drivers in the past, and me personally, I am here to race. I love racing and this is the best place to be doing it. You have got to make a lot of sacrifices.
Q: The car is good isn't it?
JB: The good thing is that we had a positive day. We came here for our first test and we have done a good job. We have been reasonably reliable, but we had a problem this afternoon that cost us a few laps, but we came here to do long runs and get as many miles on the car as we can and we have achieved that already on the first day. To do 82 laps is a good start and we just hope that we can build on that. The car feels nice to drive, but there is still a long way to go!
Q: The Mercedes engine is quite good as well, isn't it?
JB: Yeah. I think it's a good package considering how late in the day everything came together. The package as a whole is working very well. There are obviously going to be issues and things that we need to solve, and things that aren't right, but I am very comfortable in the car and it reacts to changes which is good. The people that I am working with in the team are very focused on improving the car and moving the team up the grid by the time we get to the first race.
Q: Manufacturing-wise, is the team on a tight schedule for Melbourne?
JB: Well, we have got one car at the moment and for sure we will have two cars in Melbourne but we will be a lot tighter than other teams. We will definitely be on the grid with two cars and we will just have to keep it out of the barriers.
Q: Have there been any things that were in development that have been delayed?
JB: We have been very lucky that we have been able to keep developing over the winter. It is fantastic that we have been allowed to do that - in a way you have to say thanks to Honda for that.
Q: When did you find out that the team would use Mercedes-Benz engines?
JB: There is always a lot of talk and I didn't want to push too hard with the team. I knew it was going to be one of the top engines, they are the teams that can make reliable engines and can produce a number of them. It wasn't that long ago that I knew Mercedes would provide the engines if we went racing. I'm happy that we do have that engine in the car. After today I feel that it is an engine that works well in our package. I felt very comfortable in the car and already we have made some good progress.
Q: What did you do when you first found out that Honda was quitting Formula One?
JB: I heard it when I had just got back from Lanzarote actually. I had just flown back after a great week with some friends, my physio and my trainer. Everything was going great, perfect, I was looking forward to the new season. I had just got off the plane when I got a call from my manager Richard who just told me straight out what the situation was. That was the best way to put it really.
Q: Did you turn to the bottle?
JB: That evening was very tough and no I didn't turn to the bottle. I turned to the team, I went straight up to the factory and I was shocked. I was quite emotional walking in and thinking we might not be racing in 2009. But they were all just doing the same job that they always do. I made a few speeches in a few of the departments being quite emotional, and all these guys were looking at me thinking what's the matter? We're all still working our arses off, don't worry about it. They haven't let their heads drop and we've proven that with the package we have here.
Q: So they kept you going as well?
JB: Yeah! That's the main thing when I went up to the factory the day after the announcement. To see the team was great for me, because it showed that they were all still focused and still doing a great job. In a way that helped me more than I was helping them. It goes both ways though and I think I've showed to them that I am dedicated and focused to do the best job I can with this team. I didn't go to another team or try and find something different, because I knew this team can do it and do it in the future. They had produced something very good already - and that was obviously back in November.
Q: When Ross came to you and said you have to take a pay cut, was that an easy decision to make?
JB: I am not the only one. We all do, and especially in this difficult time you have to make sacrifices. You might say hey, youre an F1 driver and you make loads of money and a few of us do earn quite a bit of money but it is a very different situation now to what it was a year ago. In the end that doesn't mean anything to me because I want to race. What would I do sitting at home? There is nothing out there for me at the moment. I am 29 years old. I'm still a kid in my eyes and I have got a lot to prove in F1. In five or six years if that sort of thing would happen I might walk away and look for something else to do. But that is not my aim at the moment. It's to be here on the grid and prove I can win races with Brawn GP. I think there is a good possibility of that in the future.
Q: Having had all that time to contemplate your future, has that made you more determined to get the most out of the rest of your career now?
JB: Yes. I wouldn't say that in the last few years it all went a little bit stale, but when something happens like that it's like a big wow. It does become somewhat of a fresh start - and getting into an F1 car makes me feel like a kid again. It feels like 2000 again but with nine years experience. It's the perfect position to be in and I have the hunger to achieve. But I'm not the only person that feels this way - it's all of us. Especially having produced a car that I think is competitive and is very different to the last two cars we have produced. So we all feel like kids again and you can see that from the smiles on people's faces in the team - and that's before we drove the car today. There is a great atmosphere and it has brought us that much closer together. It is a great team to be part of at the moment.
Q: Can you talk a bit about the adaptation process to the 2009 cars? Obviously you won't have as much time as the others to do this before Melbourne?
JB: This is one problem for us: We won't have as many testing miles as other teams. But we have always been a team that has been very good at producing the car and getting the set-up right early on. I think we proved that today. There is a lot we can improve on but the basic set-up is reasonable and that is a good starting point. I think a lot of other teams didn't have that when they first wheeled their cars out. I'm not too worried. I think the only issue will be reliability because we haven't got the time to put the miles on all the parts that other teams have been able to do.
Q: What about the feel of the car? How different are they to drive?
JB: They are different to drive. I much prefer the way that they are now to the way they were last year. Maybe that is just our car but I don't know. I can feel it a lot more than previous cars. There is a lot more coming through which is great and it is only going to get better!
Q: This is the first time in your career that you are driving for a fully-independent team. How does that feel?
JB: As long as we are quick it doesn't matter - and as long as we have got enough money to finish the season! I don't know but somehow it's more of a family when it is a private team. When it is a big corporation then it is fantastic for sure because you have the resources. But being in a private team is really like a big family and that is going to help us - especially this season. We need to work together and we need to be friends - not just work buddies. I'm in a place that I'm very happy with and every time I wake up in the morning I'm so excited about getting in the car and moving forward. This is something that I haven't experienced in my career. I'm in a very nice position where I'm with a great team, I have a lot of experience and I'm excited about getting in a Formula One car. Sometimes in the past that hasn't been the case. But having the break and thinking wow, I might not be racing in 2009 was a bit of a wake-up call!
Q: Are you happy to have Rubens again as your team mate?
JB: Yeah, I am very happy. I didn't know until last Thursday. He is a great guy and we have worked together for the last three years. He is a very competitive team mate. Last year he pushed me very hard! But he is very experienced and it is also a new lease of life for him. So we are going to push each other hard and work as hard as we can to improve. In the short period of time that we have, we are the best two drivers to improve this car and put it in a good position for Melbourne.
Q: Were there moments over the winter when you felt you had taken a big risk by not looking for alternatives?
JB: Yes. There were, and in a way that was pretty exciting - it was a real rush of adrenaline. It was tough but I kept in contact with the team all through the winter. We were non-stop on the phone seeing how things were going. For sure we didn't know all the details but I am very happy with the outcome! At certain times I wondered if I had done the right thing, but I knew that they had produced a car that was going to be competitive and I wanted to be in that car. The other options wouldn't have been such a competitive year and I was willing to take the risk to be with Brawn GP!
Q: What does it mean for you to have Ross Brawn as a team owner?
JB: For me it's great. I worked with Ross last year he's a tough guy but very straight and that's good. He is very good at bringing the troops together and making sure we are working together as one, instead of departments that all come together at the end. A lot of the relationships between people and departments is because of Ross Brawn - and his new role of being a team owner is exciting for him. It is a big challenge for all of us, especially Ross, but he has achieved so much in the sport with different teams so I think it is about time that he ran a team. I think he is nervous and excited but looking forward to this team very much.
Q: Your team started developing the 2009 car before anyone else. Do you think that is an advantage?
JB: Yeah - for sure! There are certain things that are a little bit difficult for us because we didn't plan to have this engine in the back of the car. Certain areas are not as good as other teams but we started this car very early and we have produced one that is competitive. And watching everyone testing, we are looking at the other cars seeing that certain parts that we have tried on our car and it didn't make us go that much quicker. That goes for a lot of the parts that are on other teams and we couldn't find a route with those parts so we took a different path which has worked for us. It's also a beautiful car, which is difficult to say with these wings, but this is definitely a beautiful car.