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Exclusive Q&A with McLaren’s Jenson Button 09 Mar 2010

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday 27 February 2010. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday 27 February 2010. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday 25 February 2010. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren McLaren MP4/25 Launch, Vodafone UK Headquarters, Newbury, England, Friday 29 January 2010. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 3 February 2010.

Not many drivers have been able to defend their title. Jenson Button’s bid to join that small but illustrious group starts this weekend in Bahrain. Just to add to the challenge, he will have to race against two drivers who’ve done it: Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso. And with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber also chasing his crown, this season promises to be a mouth watering affair…

Q: How does it feel to start the season as the defending champion? Is it a different mindset to previous seasons?
Jenson Button:
I’m actually really looking forward to the start of the season. It will be a thrill and an honour to sit on the grid with the number one on my car - it’ll actually be the first time in my car racing career that that’s ever happened - but I won’t be spending too much time thinking about the drivers who want to take it away from me. Obviously, my aim is to retain the title and we’ll need to start the year extremely strongly if we’re going to achieve that because, more than ever these days, world championships seem to be won at the start of the season rather than at the end of it.

Q: How strong is the will to do it again - now that you’ve had a taste of it?
JB:
The motivation this year is totally fresh. Of course, I think that’s primarily come around because of the switch of team. If I’d stayed where I was, I don’t think I’d have had quite the same determination as I do now - and that’s due to a combination of things: my familiarity with the team, the feeling that you’re repeating yourself. At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, everything is new, I’m more driven than ever and I want to achieve great things here.

Q: When speaking with drivers from other teams they all seem convinced that Ferrari and McLaren have the edge at the moment. How do you see your chances of coming out on top?
JB:
The new regulations mean that it’s incredibly hard to say. Clearly, Ferrari has looked very strong at every test, and you can never underestimate guys like Fernando and Felipe. But Red Bull’s car looks very good, and Ross (Brawn), Michael and Norbert (Haug) will be pushing like crazy to win races - and I’m sure they will. Where do we sit in the mix? It’s hard to tell, but we’re all obviously pushing to be at the front from the start of the year.

Q: Two champions in one team, and both trying to demonstrate that they can do it again: is it still nothing but blue skies?
JB:
It’s a relationship that we both believe will work, and which we’re both committed to. Just because Lewis and I are world champions, it doesn’t mean that our lives will be more difficult. I’ve worked with a lot of fantastic drivers in my career, and I’ve got along with all of them. I’m very confident that we’ll work fine together.

Q: Do you feel you are already fully integrated into the team, or does Lewis still have a bit of an edge in this respect?
JB:
I don’t think there’s an edge, particularly. Of course, Lewis knows the team, and he feels very much at home here, but the team has done everything it possibly can to make sure that we receive equal treatment and equipment. And I can honestly say that my welcome here, and the experience of working at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has been overwhelmingly positive - I was made to feel part of the family as soon as I joined, and I know that they’ve made every effort to ensure that I feel at home, feel comfortable and can work to the best of my ability. I have absolutely no concerns in that area whatsoever.

Q: How does it feel to be part of McLaren, now that you have two months under your belt? The culture is surely different…
JB:
I think most of the top Formula One teams operate in a very similar way - at least, I think they do. The differences between Mercedes GP and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, at least in the way both go racing, is not that great. Of course, there are small differences in culture and personality, but that’s the same wherever you go. And I think you’d find that everyone in Formula One is extremely adaptable, so, again, I don’t feel too much of a change.

Q: The weather conditions have been far from ideal at all pre-season tests. How much of the McLaren programme have you been able to successfully complete? Could it be that more or less everybody is heading for Bahrain with a deficit in preparations?
JB:
The weather has been the same for everybody, so it’s not a concern. It’s not as if one team has been testing in constant sun for the past month while the rest have all been struggling through the European winter. We’re all in the same boat, so it doesn’t matter. Yes, we’d have liked some more dry running - who wouldn’t - but we’ve been able to push through the vast majority of our test programme. We’ve not learned quite as much as we would have liked, and there were certainly some frustrating days when the rain started falling, but it’s not something I’m concerned about.

Q: If you had to bet on the outcome in Bahrain who would your money be on?
JB:
I’d advise you to save your money!