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Jenson Button Q&A: Driver who cracks least will be champion 16 Sep 2010

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010

Although victory at the Italian Grand Prix wasn’t his, McLaren’s Jenson Button did manage to resuscitate his floundering championship hopes with his second-place finish at Monza. But with five drivers within 25 points of the top of the table, Button - currently in fourth - knows he needs to play a long game over the remaining five Grands Prix if he is to clinch the title at the end of season. He explains more in an interview with his official website…

Q: On Sunday, you said you felt your race strategy was slightly flawed. Looking back on it, do you still have the same opinion?
Jenson Button:
I had mixed emotions on Sunday - obviously, I wanted to win the race, and, having led most of it, that was probably an achievable ambition; but I also managed to score some very useful points over the guys ahead of me in the championship. And that gave me a great feeling. What was also interesting was the damage to the rear of my car. Fernando (Alonso) had hit me on the first lap, and it caused some damage to the floor - but I didn’t realise quite how much damage it had caused until I saw the car after the race. I was quite surprised that we were able to have such good race pace given the damage to the floor. Would I have felt better if I’d won the race, but had Lewis and Mark (Webber) alongside me on the podium? That’s a difficult one to answer. But, I think, in the immediate aftermath of the race, you tend to look at what might have happened, and if I’d stayed ahead of Fernando after his pit stop, then it’s reasonable to assume I had every chance of winning the race. So, did we get the strategy wrong? People have said it was a case of ‘who blinked first’ but, really, the fact was that we didn’t have the fastest car in the race, and, while it would have been possible to have kept the lead, Fernando’s pace meant that, at best, that was still quite a long-shot. So I think the team played its card properly, it’s just that there were a number of factors that were always going to work hard against us to ensure that a victory was difficult.

Q: So are you most pleased, then, that Sunday’s race boosted your title aspirations?
JB:
Absolutely, because I took the opportunity with both hands, and I scored 18 points on a day when Lewis scored none, Mark took home eight and Sebastian 12. Now, you can’t help but look at the drivers’ championship table and just think, ‘wow, how can it be so close?’ It’s funny - after Spa, everyone was saying it was a two-horse race between Lewis and Mark, but I can easily see this championship going right down to the last race. I think we’ve seen that not one driver’s going to walk away with the world title - there’s going to be a fight right to the very end.

Q: Obviously, these last five races are under more scrutiny than, for example, the first five. If you’re saying no driver will be able to walk away with it, does that change your approach. Does consistency become more important than a victory, for example?
JB:
I think you have to take each race as it comes. I think that driving just to score a certain number of points isn’t in a racing driver’s psyche. I felt that a little bit last year, I knew I only had to keep scoring consistently to take the title, but that was probably more mentally taxing than just putting your head down and going for it. For instance, at Interlagos last year, I had nothing to really lose - I was 14th on the grid and my team mate was on pole. What did I have to gain by driving steadily and taking home a handful of points? I just went for it, and that was a really liberating race for me, and an experience that will be useful this year too. I think consistency is important in some ways though: obviously, you need a car that will get you to the finish of every Grand Prix, and you don’t want to start making knee-jerk, or radical, decisions on set-up or strategy because you think it might give you an advantage. We’re racers, so we’ll always be racing - but the pressure’s now on all of us, because none of us can afford another non-finish or a mistake. And the guy who cracks least will be world champion.

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