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Jenson Button Q&A: I can’t afford another DNF 20 May 2010

The McLaren MP4/25 of Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren pushed away by marshals.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Race, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 16 May 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Qualifying Day, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 15 May 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Qualifying Day, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 15 May 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 with a smoking engine.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Race, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 16 May 2010

A small oversight - a foam bung left in one of his car’s sidepods - sealed Jenson Button’s fate at the Monaco Grand Prix. After being forced to pull over to retire on the third lap, Button left the Monte Carlo race with zero points and thus lost his top spot in the championship standings. Although there are still plenty of races left and plenty of points still up for grabs, the British driver knows perfection is key and another mistake could quite easily rob him of the chance to defend his 2009 title. He explains more in an interview with his official website…

Q: You’ve had a few days to reflect on your non-finish in Monaco - how do you feel?
Jenson Button:
Of course, disappointed at not being able to score points on Sunday, but realistic that it was never going to be one of the best circuits for our car, and also pleased that my championship chances didn’t suffer too badly after failing to finish. Retiring from a race is just one of those things. It happens to each and every driver, every single year. It’s a part of motor racing, and it’s something you just deal with and move on from. I’m already looking forward to Turkey - I’ve spoken with the team and we’re pretty confident that we’ll be quite a bit more competitive in Istanbul.

Q: After the race, we heard you mention a ‘bung’ being left in the car - can you explain what that is?
JB:
Yeah, it’s just a simple foam bung that we use in the garage to seal the sidepod and prevent cold air from flowing through it. It helps to maintain the engine’s operating temperature after we’ve warmed up the car. In Monaco, the bung was removed from the right-hand side but not the left, so the air that we need to feed the radiators and cool the car wasn’t getting through. That meant the car was slowly overheating, and that’s why I pulled off before the damage got too severe.

Q: So the engine’s okay?
JB:
Yeah, it should be fine. I turned it off pretty quickly, so I don’t think it’ll be an issue.

Q: You’ve lost your position at the top of the drivers’ championship - is that a worry?
JB:
At the moment, no. We all know this is a long season - 19 races - and it’s still too early to be worrying about leading the championship. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice, but it’s not important until the end of the season. But I think it shows what can happen when you potentially lose a chunk of points by not finishing, or by not finishing in those big points-scoring positions. It actually feels like a bigger blow than it actually is, because you see somebody pull away by 18 or 25 points, which is a very big margin. I don’t think anyone’s really thought about the fact that this year’s world champion is probably going to score hundreds of points, which does put it in perspective a bit more, because we’re used to the top drivers scoring 90 or 100 points in order to win the world championship.

Q: But it shows that consistency is still the most important asset in the title fight, doesn’t it?
JB:
Absolutely. The one thing that hasn’t changed is that need for consistency and reliability. Both Lewis and I have failed to finish in one race, and the whole team has got to make sure that that’s the only time this year that we fail to score points. I think we’ve seen all the top teams make small mistakes so far this year. But those small errors can sometimes have bigger consequences. And that’s a sign of just how much people are pushing for performance. But now I think we’re seeing those mistakes start to lessen as the teams get a better understanding of their cars. So if you’re going to fight for the title, then you’ve got to be scoring regularly. And, even on a bad day, you need to pick up some points, in order to keep your momentum up. I think we learned a couple of difficult lessons in Spain and Monaco, but I know that we’ll benefit from them in the long term.