Jenson Button Q&A: The MP4-25s potential is huge 08 Apr 2010
Jenson Buttons eighth-place finish at last weekends Malaysian Grand Prix contrasted starkly to his spectacular victory at the Australian race the week before. But following a productive visit to the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) this week, the reigning champion insists he has more than enough cause for optimism ahead of the forthcoming Chinese race, in an interview on his official website...
Q: You made the journey back to Woking to prepare yourself for the Chinese Grand Prix. How important was that visit?
Jenson Button: Its important for a number of reasons. Its been my first chance to get back to the MTC since winning in Melbourne two weeks ago, and its nice to get back and share some of that with the people who made it possible. But coming to MTC is just part of the job. I know that people think its all about driving the car, but theres a lot of work that goes on back at the factory to make sure that were as well prepared as we can be when we arrive at the track. I was going to the factory pretty much on a weekly basis through the winter just to make sure that we were preparing for the new season properly. And this weeks visit was part of that programme - its important to debrief thoroughly, and go through everything that happened to work out how to make the car better for the future. So I was doing some simulator work, looking back over the Malaysia weekend to see what wed have done differently, or how wed have pursued things if wed had more time. We also looked ahead to next weekends race at Shanghai. I feel like we made a little bit of a step in our understanding of the car and Im looking forward to trying that out during practice in China.
Q: What was the nature of the preparation for China? Are you comfortable in the car?
JB: As Ive said, I do feel very comfortable in this car: pretty much straight away I felt at home in the cockpit, but Ive also said that I need to go just that bit further to get myself perfectly comfortable. Im not quite there yet, but one of the amazing things about this team is their dedication towards making things perfect for me. The attention to detail is amazing, and my engineers and I have been working through some very detailed programmes to get myself further dialled into the car. And I think weve been successful with that.
Q: If youre not completely comfortable, you still did a pretty good job of it in Australia!
JB: Absolutely, but thats what I mean - I had the car pretty much to my liking in Melbourne, and the result was extremely encouraging. But the most satisfying thing about the opening three races is the belief that we have a fantastic car beneath us. Weve said all along that the MP4-25 is quite a departure from last years car, and even though I never drove the 2009 car, I know that weve gone all out to develop a car thats more revolution than evolution. And, as a result, were still working to fully understand the car and how we can bring more performance to it. I think the potential to develop this car is huge, and I know that thats something we are working flat-out to capitalise on. I think we have a very, very strong foundation, but Im most excited about what will be coming in three, six or 10 races time - thats what will define where we finish the end of the year.
Q: Nonetheless, its still a pretty closely fought title battle, isnt it?
JB: It is yeah, its still really close at the top, which is quite surprising in some ways. I dont think I was the only one who thought that the new points system would reward the fastest drivers more than those who are simply more consistent. But weve seen in the first three races that consistency still counts for a lot. And, Im told that the championship order at the front would still be unchanged if we were using last years scoring system, which is interesting. I still think it will take a few more races for us to get a better understanding of the intricacies of the points system, but I still think that consistent finishes will be as important. Fortunately, weve seen that the McLaren team is extremely reliable, and I well know from last year that the Mercedes-Benz engines are some of the most reliable on the whole grid, and I can take a lot of positives from that - reliability is the backbone of any championship campaign, and, so far, weve got both cars to the finish of every race - and were the only top team to have done that.
Q: So what are your hopes for China?
JB: I think that this two-week break will be very useful for all the teams. I think we saw in Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia that all the teams had a few bugs in the system - and you have to expect that after three pretty much non-stop races halfway around the world. For China, I think well see the top teams raise their game. I dont think theres any room for under-performance any more. Personally, I am looking forward to a problem-free weekend - I want to qualify well and have a straightforward race, something I didnt manage in either Bahrain or Malaysia. Also, Im really interested in seeing exactly what our car can achieve on a dry track starting from the front. Malaysia was a little bit of a mixed opportunity for us, but I have every belief that well be just as strong, if not stronger in China next weekend.