Jenson Button Exclusive - Red Bull, Toyota & Barrichello the Bahrain threats 24 Apr 2009
Despite spending so much of his Formula One career seemingly never quite in the right place at the right time to challenge for the title, Jenson Button never gave up believing that there must be more for him than the midfield. Now, with Brawn, Button can finally show his true colours. And it seems the experienced Brit is definitely enjoying his role as the new leader of the pack - even if he is expecting renewed pressure at Sakhir this weekend
Q: Jenson, after several seasons of struggle, now - almost out of the blue it seems - youre a championship contender. Has your mind been able to keep up with this rapid development?
Jenson Button: Well, the last couple of years have been quite difficult, but Formula One is all about being part of a team and if the team as a whole is not doing well youre not going to be competitive. Now it is fantastic to be with a team that is very competitive and I am able to do a good job - and for sure it is overwhelming to lead the championship by six points. That is where I should be, and I am very happy. This was always my belief that I belong there, because if you lose that belief in yourself you wont be in Formula One any more.
Q: There are currently a few drivers in the paddock who have gone from hero to zero. Youve done the opposite. Did you ever dream that your career could still have such a stunning turnaround in store?
JB: Thats always what you hope and the reason why you continue in Formula One. Even if youve had a couple of bad years you always think that there is a possibility. I always knew that we had a competitive car for this season - sure, not how competitive - but that is why I pushed so hard to be on the grid.
Q: In nine years you won one Grand Prix - and then you won two within the space of a week, followed by a third place in China. Will the podium be your new home?
JB: Hopefully! In Formula One the way is you want to win every race - although there is always the consistency question. In 2004 I had 11 podiums but I didnt get anywhere near to winning the championship. This year my belief is that we can do much better than that and be on the top spot more often.
Q: According to Renault boss Flavio Briatore, the wrong guy in the wrong car is leading the championship. Whats your stance on that?
JB: I think it is the wrong guy making an opinion. Flavio is a very outspoken man and if he means that us leading the championship is wrong for the sport then his comments might be wrong for the sport. He doesnt understand the way Formula One is in the way of how a car performs and how a driver performs, because I think that I am the right man to lead the championship and us as a team being competitive has made Formula One a bit more exciting. Seeing new drivers at the front, on the podium and winning races is good for the sport. The feedback that I have had from people underlines that. Hopefully it continues a long way because I have worked my ass off for this and nobody can take that away from me.
Q: The Brawn was declared legal by the FIA. What if the verdict had been a different one?
JB: It wasnt! Thats the way I always work! The verdict has shown that weve made the best out of the regulations and the good thing is that most teams have realized that and theyve had to actually start working hard on improving their cars to be competitive.
Q: You didnt win in China, but how welcome was that Vettel victory? It demonstrated that a different diffuser on its own does not guarantee a winning car, and that anyone who did their homework over the winter now has a chance to win
JB: Well, in the first two races wed been very competitive. In the wet in China that wasnt the case. It is nice having competition up there in the front, and the Red Bulls were very quick in China. We couldnt get anywhere near them. And also Toyota is showing very strong performance, so it wasnt the runaway victory that I had in the first two races. The first race was still tough, as we had the safety car and at the second race there was a downpour of rain, so neither victory was a walk in the park. It will be very interesting to see where we stand this weekend.
Q: Are you surprised that the usual frontrunners are experiencing such a slump?
JB: Yes, for sure Im surprised that Ferrari so far hasnt scored any points, but we saw McLaren doing a very good job in Shanghai with both drivers, so they have made quite an improvement. No doubt the top teams of last year will improve - the question is when. My guess is that when we get back to Europe we will see McLaren much stronger - but whether its enough for the front I dont know. At the moment were looking more at the Red Bulls and the Toyotas.
Q: At the first two races the Brawns clearly dominated - in China the situation was slightly different. Did the others catch up or did the BGP001 let you down a bit?
JB: In Australia the car was quick, for sure. In China there were also other teams that were competitive, especially in the wet conditions which made it very difficult for us. Last weekend I dont think that we were able to get the maximum out of the car - and even if we had I doubt that we would have been as quick as the Red Bulls. It is just the way their car is built. It works better in the wet conditions. We have to look at the reasons and try to improve.
Q: What will we see from you this weekend? And from the three races so far, who do you think is your biggest challenger?
JB: I am pretty sure we will be competitive here - and our competition will again be Red Bull and Toyota. For sure, my team mate will also be a big challenger. But I am looking forward to the race and it is important to be on the podium. But this time I want to be on the top step again!