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Q&A with McLaren's Button and Hamilton - updated 29 Jan 2010

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren McLaren MP4/25 Launch, Vodafone UK Headquarters, Newbury, England, Friday 29 January 2010. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren unveil the MP4/25. McLaren MP4/25 Launch, Vodafone UK Headquarters, Newbury, England, Friday 29 January 2010. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren McLaren MP4/25 Launch, Vodafone UK Headquarters, Newbury, England, Friday 29 January 2010. Detail of the McLaren MP4/25. McLaren MP4/25 Launch, Vodafone UK Headquarters, Newbury, England, Friday 29 January 2010. McLaren MP4/25 is unveiled. McLaren MP4/25 Launch, Vodafone UK Headquarters, Newbury, England, Friday 29 January 2010.

Friday may have been the world’s first opportunity to glimpse the new McLaren, but surprisingly it was also the first time either of the British team’s drivers had laid eyes on the MP4-25. Unsurprisingly, both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton seemed enthralled with their new charge and can’t wait to get behind the wheel. Here the pair reveal their first impressions and look ahead to next week’s debut test...

Q: Jenson, this is the first time you’ve seen the car with the world champion’s number one on the nosecone, how does that make you feel?
Jenson Button:
It feels fantastic! Winning the world championship last year was such a momentous achievement for me, but the winter has gone so quickly, I’ve been so busy and so focused on the year ahead, that the 2009 season already feels such a long time ago. It all still feels slightly surreal. But it’s an incredible feeling. I’m incredibly proud to be standing here today knowing I’ll be carrying the number one for the whole season: that’s a great responsibility but also a great honour. It’s something I’m relishing. It looks so cool too!

Q: What’s the plan for next week’s first test in Valencia and the three following sessions?
JB:
Lewis and myself will be sharing the test days equally. It would be nice to be able to say that my first day will be about getting used to the car and the team, and making myself feel comfortable with the new environment. But Formula One is far too competitive for that: it’s about hitting the ground running. From the very first day, I’ll be working with the team to learn about the car and to develop it ahead of the first race. I’ve said it before: the pace of development in those opening tests could well determine the outcome of the championship. We’ve seen many times before that the winner of the first race of the season often goes on to take the championship, and we need to make sure we’re in a position to do just that in 2010.

Q: What’s struck you most since joining Vodafone McLaren Mercedes?
JB:
Two things: firstly, the level of professionalism and commitment that’s always on display. Ever since I first arrived, it’s been clear to see that everybody is enormously motivated by winning and succeeding in Formula One, and that’s a really healthy attitude, and one that fires me up enormously. Secondly, it’s a really warm and friendly team. Perhaps it’s not something you see from the outside looking in, but there’s a real human spirit, and a sense of people helping each other out. That’s something that really struck me, too. I’ve got a great team around me, and I already feel very at home here. I just can’t wait to get in the car and start driving again. It really can’t come soon enough!

Q: Lewis, what do you think of the new car?
Lewis Hamilton:
It looks brilliant. I’ve seen just how much effort and attention has gone into making this car what it is, we’ve been pushing like crazy to find the performance and I think you can see for yourselves that the result is something that looks very special, and very uncompromising. Of course, it’s still too early to tell exactly how we’ll fare against our rivals, but, after the pace we showed in the second half of last year, I feel very confident that we’ll be able to maintain that momentum, and that we’ll have a very competitive season.

Q: How do you think the new driver line-up will help the team in 2010?
LH:
I think one of the greatest assets at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is the team’s strength in depth, and that’s something that shows throughout the whole organisation. We have a tremendous engineering team – people who have been here for many, many years and who have worked with some of the sport’s greatest champions and helped design and build some of Formula One’s most iconic cars. They really want to deliver another fantastic car for the 2010 season. And both Jenson and I are world champions, and we both want to add to the team’s incredible winning legacy. I know how proud he feels to be a part of the team, and I know that we’ll work as hard as we possibly can to develop this car into a winner. I think a strong driver line-up will be very important this year as there are a lot of very competitive teams and drivers - and the stronger we can be, the better chance we’ll have of winning races. We all understand that.

Q: What are your aims for the season ahead?
LH:
Obviously, I want to win the drivers’ world championship, that’s clear. But, just as important, I want to help the team to win the constructors’ championship. I also want to achieve something greater this year. I’d like us to demonstrate to the world the strength, passion, and depth of belief that exists within Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.I think it’s set to be a great year for Formula One. There will be four world champions on the grid - two of them in our team - and there are at least four teams who I think will win races. I think the sport can earn a lot of new fans throughout 2010. It should be brilliant.

Q: Jenson, are looking forward to the season?
JB:
Yes - it's been a very busy January to make sure that I really feel a part of this team. Moving to a new team is always difficult and it's a big change and I think we struggle with change a little bit. But they really have welcomed me, and it's been a really good atmosphere. It's nice to finally see the car as one whole piece, instead of in bits in the factory. I'm looking forward to the season. We don't want to get too carried away yet. We have a lot of testing in front of us - a lot of hard work - before we get to the first race. I'm excited, the most excited I've ever been coming into a season. It's a massive challenge for me and one I'm really looking forward to.

Q: Everybody is expecting Mercedes to be a one man team this year; will it be difficult to go up against them?
JB:
I am hoping that is not the case and I am sure Nico (Rosberg) or Michael (Schumacher), whichever one you’re talking about, are hoping that it is not the case. Formula One is about team effort and you need both drivers to work together to improve the car. If you do it on your own, it's not going to work. I don't think any driver on this grid would choose a number two role. I can't see it happening and I don't think it will be the case this year.

Q: How do you think the competitiveness between you and Lewis will affect your work?
JB:
For us, it is so important for us to work together as a team, or we won't get a British world champion at the end of the year. We both have so much experience of working in F1 - positives and negatives - we've both been in different situations. You’ll see at the end of the year what happens, and who did a better job after those 19 races. There is no use thinking that far into the future. You have to think of now and how we make this car as quick as we can.
LH: I don't think any of you should forget that he is the world champion and that he's been welcomed into this team.

Q: Jenson, do you believe Mercedes will be strong this year?
JB:
First of all I do think they will be strong in 2010. We were world champions together in 2009 so I don’t think they’ll be at the back of the field. Personally, I had a great relationship with the team and I made the decision to move teams because I wanted a new challenge. When you win the championship you have achieved your dream. And after that I was thinking where do I go from here? The decision was to move to McLaren and take up this new challenge. It has really spurred me on, I am going into this season so much more excited than any other season I've been in Formula One. I've become a much stronger person, a stronger driver, with what happened last year. When we get to the first race I'm going to make sure that I'm 100 percent ready. I don't want any excuses. The first race in Bahrain is a race I'm looking to be competitive in.

Q: What are your thoughts on the heavier fuel load this year?
JB:
It is something we need to test. We know it's going to be heavy and that it will be harder to stop the car, but that's why we are testing. 150-160kg is massive compared to what we're used to, which has been, in my career, below 100kg for every year I've raced. It's a new experience, it is something we have been working on in the simulator but we will be working on it a lot during the next month.

Q: Are there any tracks that you are looking forward to this year?
LH:
I'm looking forward to seeing Korea because it's a new circuit. Personally, I love all the races.
JB: There are a couple of circuits that we already know will have a few changes. Silverstone's going to be a bit different. Bahrain has a new little section, which will hopefully make the racing even better there. So there are a few new things to learn. It seems like every year there is a new circuit, which is good. It mixes it up a little bit.

Q: Do you think it could be the most competitive Formula One season ever?
JB:
Yes I do. I think it has been a while since we have had four world champions racing. There are lots of very talented people in Formula One at the moment and a lot of new teams coming in. Hopefully we will all see it as possibly the most exciting Formula One season we've ever seen.