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Jenson Button Q&A: Tyre strategy for race not straightforward

11 Oct 2014

In final practice on Saturday morning in Russia, McLaren’s strong Friday form appeared to have deserted them. Thankfully it returned in the afternoon, enabling Jenson Button to qualify an impressive fourth, beaten only by the two Mercedes and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. The team are indeed in good shape, says Button, though he doesn’t expect an easy race in Sochi…

Q: Jenson, so far this season the McLaren has seldom been your best friend. Was today’s P4 qualifying result a big surprise for you?

Jenson Button: This afternoon was great - in the morning we’d been nowhere. The car simply wasn’t working after a good Friday, so that really surprised us. But we’ve kept our heads down and improved during the sessions and went into qualifying with a much better car. In fact it was pretty tricky out there with the tyres, getting them working quick enough for your timed lap.

Q: So from what you’ve experienced this afternoon, what kind of race do you expect?

JB: Our long runs were pretty good on Friday. Three cars in front of us had better long runs - but no cars that are behind us today. We have a good balance.

Q: How irritating was it to have a good Friday, then to be nowhere this morning, only to bounce back in the afternoon. What signal does that send for the race?

JB: Hopefully a good one! (laughs)

Q: Much will depend on the right strategy. The tyre degradation seems to be less here, so what does that mean in terms of pit stops?

JB: I think most cars can do a one- or two-stop strategy. But it is not as simple as that: the tyres can definitely do only one stop, but if you lock up here it is a big lock-up and you completely ruin your tyres. And if you do, it’s no longer a one-stop, so you really have to weigh up what is the less risky choice. The strategy is not a straightforward thing at all.

Q: Both McLaren’s looked good this afternoon compared to your major threat, Force India…

JB: If you speak with the people in the team most of them will tell you that today’s qualifying form is more important than P5 in the constructors’ championship. We take it race by race with the clear aim to improve every weekend, to have a starting point for 2015. It is important to know that we are able to turn things around.

Q: So let’s talk about the race tomorrow. What is your guess?

JB: The three cars in front of us need a little less fuel saving than we do for some reasons in terms of efficiency - so let’s see how things develop. It will be an interesting race as we all don’t know what the ‘ace conditions’ here are. I also think it is hard to understand when the tyres are in the best condition and for now I am pretty happy with how we did. The last three or four races have made my life difficult for the race because in qualifying I’ve made a mistake and today I didn’t do that - I did a good job and that makes my life much easier for the race. That’s when we score the points.

Q: What kind of points? Podium points or just the normal ones?

JB: Let’s hope that it is a good day for us tomorrow. It is a nice feeling to start from the second row and that should make my life a lot easier. You cannot count on a two-stop strategy - even with the 60 km/h speed limit in the pit lane - for the reason I’ve just mentioned: it is so difficult not to lock-up the front tyres - and the cooler conditions from the late start of the race will probably also add to difficult tyre conditions - so we probably will have to adapt our strategy. But going into the race from P4 definitely gives hope. Finally, again!