Q&A with McLarens Jenson Button 14 Oct 2011
The title might be decided, but the battle for second is as fierce as it gets. Four drivers are still in the running behind Sebastian Vettel, with Jenson Button the statistical favourite after his win in Suzuka last weekend. Judging from the considerable pace advantage McLaren enjoyed in Fridays difficult conditions in Korea, team mate Lewis Hamilton may now be Buttons biggest challenger. However it pans out, the Briton is hoping further 2011 victories will provide the ideal springboard for his 2012 campaign
Q: Jenson, first of all congratulations on your Suzuka win last week. Could that be the happiest time of your McLaren career so far?
Jenson Button: I just won a Grand Prix and I guess you always feel very good after winning a race - especially Suzuka. It does mean a lot. I am happy with the way things are, even though the championship is over. We are here to win races, and I think we had a lot of fun this year, and there have been some good races and a lot of action. Our car at this stage of the season is in a very good place, and we enjoy these fast circuits like Suzuka - and hopefully a few of these are still coming up. We dont look too far into the future, but I think to be competitive at the end of the season is quite important, especially when there is not a massive regulation change for next season. For us, fighting for the victory - which we hopefully will be for the next four races - is key to us coming out strong for 2012. Its at least something that strengthens the confidence in the team.
Q: Do you think that at the front the fight will continue to between Sebastian, Fernando, Mark, maybe Lewis and yourself for the rest of the season?
JB: For sure nothing will change in terms of how we fight for a victory, even though the championship is over. Finishing two seconds ahead of the third position in Suzuka really shows how close we are - and being ahead by almost two seconds in FP2 here in Korea demonstrates how hard weve worked to close any gap, even if Friday times are for sure not the final conclusion. If you take the first three teams - Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and McLaren - and look at the last couple of races you will see how close they are in terms of performance. There are some really different circuits coming up - like this one here in Korea - and some cars really might have the edge and battle for the victory. My guess is that despite the championship being decided the fans will see some very exciting races and we will put on some good shows for them.
Q: What happened at the start of Suzuka, where Sebastian put you onto the grass, and the FIA did not issue any penalty. Do you consider this acceptable in racing?
JB: I dont feel that I would do that. But then again at that time your emotions are running high, and you are very outspoken. I think I said something on the radio of handing out a penalty. In the end the stewards have all the possibilities of reviewing many different camera angles, and in this case they didnt agree, and I agree with them. This is the way it is. Of course I was surprised to be on the grass, but there you go. In the end we won that Grand Prix. We are all there to win, and sometimes it gets a little bit close. Sometimes you think its over the edge, and sometime its close to the edge - and all of this is racing.
Q: You are now consistently on the podium. What has made the difference, or was it simply changing fortunes?
JB: The two races before things started going well, for example in Hungary, we had reliability issues - one with the front wheel falling off, and the other with the hydraulic system. At other races we just were a bit unlucky and made a few mistakes. But throughout the season we have developed the car really well and we have found a set-up that really works, and we work around that. Of course we work in different kinds of directions, for the different types of race tracks, but I think we understand this car very well and I hope we will for the rest of the year.
Q: We see you smiling and happy at every race, whereas your team mate Lewis Hamilton, in the same car, looks a bit less confident and is finding more problems. Does a victory or even a podium give you more confidence?
JB: Racing in Formula One should give you enough confidence in how you are racing, and it is not necessarily a victory that lifts you up even further. You are racing against the best of the best in the world. I hope that Lewis does well this race, so I dont get asked this question anymore. Lewis could qualify well this race, or even win it, and all of these questions would vanish. (laughs)
Q: Now that you have won the last race, your contract has been extended and the championship is over, what is your outlook for next season?
JB: We have a very strong basis of the car and a big confidence within the team that we are able to chase Red Bull Racing. Still there is no getting you away from acknowledging that they have been better all season. Of course we are happy that we took one victory off them at a circuit that really suited them. Sebastians worst result was fourth and that was the only time he was not on the podium.
Q: In Korea it will be McLarens 700th Grand Prix. What does this mean to you, being able to drive on this occasion?
JB: It doesnt mean as much to me as it does to Ron Dennis or Martin Whitmarsh, or the people that have been in this team for many, many years, but it is a very special event for McLaren as a whole team, and to race for 700 races is impressive. Also to stay competitive for most of these races is very impressive also. Of course we would love to finish this race with a victory, too.
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