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Exclusive Q&A with McLaren's Jenson Button 05 Sep 2013

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 22 August 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Race Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 25 August 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Hungary. Sunday, 28 July 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Hungary. Sunday, 28 July 2013 (L to R): Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren and Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 19 April 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren in the Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 22 May 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice, Hungaroring, Hungary. Friday, 26 July 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice, Hungaroring, Hungary. Friday, 26 July 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hungaroring, Hungary. Saturday, 27 July 2013

Against expectations, 2013 is proving to be one of the toughest seasons of Jenson Button’s career, with McLaren yet to make the podium, let alone win a race. We caught up with the former champion in Monza to talk about life at the Woking squad, the secrets of his success, team mates new and old, his future, and more…

Q: Jenson, McLaren are celebrating their 50th anniversary this week and it’s been a formidable success story over the years. Right now, though, success is a rather sporadic guest - is there a sort of nostalgic feeling on your part when looking at the current situation?
Jenson Button:
First of all it is always great to see the history of such a great and special team who have enjoyed so much success over decades in the sport - so it’s nice to be a part of them. I’ve won more races here than with any other team, so hopefully next year we can again add to the achievements of McLaren. We do know that teams sometimes go through difficult times - and for a team like McLaren it’s not the first time - but it has also learned to pick itself up again and carry on. And sometimes in this process you get better results again than you had expected.

Q: Has McLaren’s slump caught you at an inappropriate time in your career?
JB:
No, not really. You go with it, as it is what it is. You push as hard as you can to get out of it again. Hopefully next year it is all water under the bridge.

Q: It’s your 14th season in what has been a colourful F1 career: a little bit of Williams here, a bit of Benetton and Renault there, some BAR and Honda, the highlight of Brawn, and finally McLaren. Is there still the big appetite for winning?
JB:
Of course I want to win. I have no interest in just driving around. Standing on top of the podium is still unbeatable - the best feeling in the world. It is like a drug - highly addictive.

Q: You do push the envelope in terms of athleticism - you are possibly the fittest driver on the grid. What do you get out of pushing your physical boundaries? How does it compare to winning? The same adrenalin rush?
JB:
No, it is not the same adrenalin rush that you get from winning a race - merely a substitute. It is something that helps me mentally, and I enjoy it, as I enjoy pushing my limits. About being the fittest guy on the grid, I am not sure, as there are a number of drivers who do similar…

Q: As extreme as you?
JB:
Fernando (Alonso) does a lot of training. Mark (Webber) as well.

Q: Some say you need a big ego and big elbows to get to the top as an F1 driver. Would you agree?
JB:
Everyone is different. You just have to be yourself - not being something because everybody expects you to be. I think we all change when we put our helmets on - we become a lot more aggressive and, of course, you do anything to win.

Q: You have never been known for sharp elbows, but you’re still here - and successful. How do you do it?
JB:
Ha, calculating and doing the best that I can in the way I think is correct. When I arrive at a corner I brake at the braking point - others brake past the braking point and go off the circuit and try to beat their car around. That’s different to how I do it, meaning racing also works with less aggressiveness…

Q: When so-called experts rank the very fastest guys on the grid, your name is rarely mentioned. So what is the secret of your success if it is not speed? Brains, emotional intelligence, what?
JB:
Well, supposedly Lewis (Hamilton) is the quickest man on the grid, but I scored more points over the three years we were team mates, so I obviously must be doing something right. I don’t analyse it, I just go about my racing the way I feel is correct.

Q: Your young team mate Checo (Sergio Perez) is probably wondering why he is still in your shadow, as he no doubt had other plans. Is that what you’d call the benefit of experience on your side?
JB:
Sure it’s not the easiest situation to be in - especially when you’re the new kid in the team and the car is not really strong. As far as I am concerned, I can say that I’ve got the maximum out of the car and that feels good enough for me. And looking at Checo, on occasions he has been really quick - look back at Bahrain. He is still learning - he listens a lot in meetings with the engineers and then he looks at my data as well. He is very willing to learn.

Q: Lewis and you were talking at eye level. How is it now with Checo?
JB:
With Lewis we didn’t talk much either. The only time we talked was when we got out of the car saying whether the car was good or not. We didn’t really discuss things - we haven’t been close that way. I always found it difficult being close to a team mate. You want to beat them. Sure, you could be two-faced, be nice to them all the time and then give it to them on the track, but that’s not my style. With Checo we go through the data, but that’s about it. We are not close. No driver is really close to me.

Q: We can see how much Lewis and Nico Rosberg are pushing each other at Mercedes - do you miss that kind of competition from a team mate?
JB:
Probably I am my own benchmark. It is not about how you do against your team mate - it is about bringing the car forward, as we are not where we’ve been last year. Last year we had an incredibly fast car - there it was about beating your team mate. Now the situation is different, as we have to make the car faster. I am putting my head down and focusing on that.

Q: So far the season has been a washout for McLaren. With all your experience, you must have a pretty good idea of how much improvement is possible before Brazil…
JB:
We had the quickest car last year and now we are struggling - that gives you an idea of how fast it can turn around - in both ways hopefully. Whether it is this season I am not so sure, but next year we are there again. Sure, good results would sweeten my days… (laughs)

Q: The podium is the goal - could it happen here?
JB:
Yes, but we will need a bit of luck to get up there this year.

Q: From the outside you and McLaren are the perfect fit. How is it from the inside - and will it last another season?
JB:
Well yes, I feel that I am a good fit for McLaren - possibly for the next couple of years. But I’m not the one to answer that.

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