Q: Jenson, you are another worshipper of the Suzuka track: what is the key to a fast lap here?
Jenson Button: Ha, that’s simple: a good car! (laughs) The S’s are really important. If you mess up there it will cost you all the way through. If you get it right there it will flow until the end.
Q: That brings us to the question of do you have the right car?
JB: Yes, we’ve got a right car. I am not sure if this is the perfect circuit for it, as it is obviously maximum downforce, so even after a long Friday I don’t know where we stand. My guess is that we are not fighting for victories or podiums, but hopefully we can achieve something reasonable. Actually progress is what we need all the way through to the end of the year, and hopefully we will see a little bit of that here.
Q: And indeed today some progress was visible. In fact it looked like a pretty good day for you…
JB: Well, in the morning it didn’t look like that at all. But then we changed some things on the car and the circuit gripped up - and the temperatures were higher - so yes, we’ve made some positive changes. More for the long runs and that’s what counts in a race, as it was the long runs that we’ve struggled with - but we are getting there. That is good to see. And we plan to play a bit with some things overnight, so we should be fine.
Q: So is your pace down to the car or the fact that you love Suzuka?
JB: Ha, well, the feeling is always really good around here. In terms of where we really stand, let’s hope for the best.
Q: How are the tyres working on this demanding track?
JB: Even on the hard tyre there is quite some degradation and it overheats quite easily. But that’s Suzuka: high speed, changing direction - that’s all tough on the tyres. But we kind of expected that, so no surprises. It’s simply a tough race. (laughs)
Q: There is a lot of speculation about your future. Is there anything you can do off track this weekend - as it’s Honda’s home race - to help get it right for next year?
JB: Not really. I am doing everything I can. I’ve been around long enough to know that sometimes things are more complicated and from the public and the press it doesn’t come across quite as it is, so I am doing my job and enjoying racing. I think I am doing a great job - especially on Sundays when it counts. And off circuit I am doing what I am asked to do - and a lot more. I wouldn’t feel sorry for me. Whatever happens, I wouldn’t feel sorry for me.
Q: How much is this car already a laboratory for next year’s car?
JB: It definitely is a test bed. We definitely want to see changes this year and do better results at the last five races - but it is more for next year, of course. We are not going to win a race this year, whereas there is the possibility for that next year. You test lots of things and hope that you develop the car for 2015.
Q: Staying at McLaren-Honda in 2015 is your best option. Is there a special factor attached to it in terms of the car? It could be a very, very good car…
JB: Yep, it could be very, very good; it could be good; and it could be average - who knows? We will not know that until next year.
Q: You’ve visited Honda and talked about the importance of the McLaren staff getting into the Japanese mindset. Is that something that would count in your favour because of your intimate knowledge of the Honda company and the country?
JB: Well, it’s not just a language barrier between Woking and Tochigi. It’s also a culture difference - something that I have been used to over the last decade of my racing career. The fantastic thing about Honda is that they are very passionate racers and I love that about them. Formula One as a whole is very happy to have Honda back, as it is great to have another manufacturer back - and this is because of the regulation changes. For all the negatives that might be - especially in terms of sound - it brings manufacturers back, which makes the sport more interesting.
Q: Coming back to your future, are there any other options you are considering outside McLaren?
JB: There are always other options in life!
Q: So this Japanese Grand Prix will definitely not be your last?
JB: It definitely will not be my last racing in Japan. (laughs)
Q: Then let’s come to the conditions: it might be wet on Sunday. How difficult is that?
JB: Very difficult. It is a narrow circuit - and it is an unforgiving circuit. What we love in the dry is very unforgiving in wet conditions. One lock-up and you’re in the grass, you’re in the tyre barriers, and that’s the end of your race. A lot of action is waiting for us this weekend.