Q: Jenson, is there anything that you can say about where you will be next season?
Jenson Button: One thing is for sure: whatever I do, it will be exciting. I want to win races and fight for the championship. If I am not able to do that I’d rather be somewhere else - with a new challenge. Whether that is in motorsport or in triathlon or in another sport - I don’t know. There are so many opportunities out there. You just don’t open your eyes to them really unless you realize that it might possibly be the end of your Formula One career. You’ve got tunnel vision when you are in F1. I’ve been here now for 15 years and it maybe takes someone to ask you whether you will be here next year for you to open your eyes. And that I have done! So whatever happens happens.
Q: When did you last speak with (McLaren boss) Ron (Dennis) about your future with the team?
JB: I spoke to Ron in Austin for a few minutes but my manager Richard does speak quite a lot with him. Every day.
Q: This weekend the papers are again full of stories about Fernando Alonso joining McLaren and you leaving…
JB: That’s what’s in the papers now for three months. And, of course, you start to think what else is out there. There are so many other challenges out there that I am interested in taking on. Am I disappointed about the situation? No. I am disappointed that I am not sitting in a winning car. I want to be in Formula One to win. I have been through so many tough times in my career and I think I have given so much to the teams that I’ve raced for. I got one title out of it and won seven races for McLaren. Sure the last two years have been tough.
Q: So today’s qualifying must have been a bit of a relief. Starting from P5 means it’s been one of the better Saturday afternoons…
JB: Let’s start with Friday: it was a disaster, really. In FP1 I had a problem with the ERS and we had to change it so I didn’t run. FP2 was bad as well, but overnight we changed quite a lot with the car and in FP3 we suddenly saw that there was hope. We developed the car and yes, P5 is not bad at all. I think we should be happy, as we did not really expect that - especially after this horrific Friday. If it will last for the race, I don’t know. Red Bull looked very quick on their long runs and the cars in front are very strong. If it is dry then finishing in P5 is what we can look for in terms of best result. If it is wet or mixed then we should be able to challenge a bit higher up. If it is wet we know that we are pretty competitive compared to the Williams.
Q: When looking at the grid we see 18 cars - if that doesn’t change we could in theory see some of the big teams running a third car. What influence will that have on the driver market - and on the future of some unconfirmed drivers?
JB: I don’t know. I would prefer two cars in a team - I don’t like three cars. As a sport it needs to do a better job in keeping all cars in the championship. This is the pinnacle of motorsport and we’ve lost two teams through the season - that’s a shame.
Q: How important are the small teams for young drivers to break into F1 racing? Many of the current pacesetters have started their careers at small teams…
JB: I have heard recently on TV that three-car teams are great because it gives young drivers an opportunity they never had. How many young drivers have come to the sport lately? Hundreds. But they come in because they have backing. There are four teams - or probably not even four teams now - where you don’t bring money. Every other team chooses you for your money. Some of the driver announcements made me laugh. They didn’t do well before, so why should they do better in a different car. Money talks in F1 right now - and talent goes too much unnoticed - and that’s a shame.
Q: We see a sizzling battle for this year’s title between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Lewis was your team mate for quite some time. Is he your favourite?
JB: Whoever wins, it doesn’t make any difference to me. The guy who does the best job on the circuits is the one who will win. I hope it does not come down to reliability issues. That is always the scary thing. Lewis is in the lead right now - he’s done a very good job. If he loses it’s hopefully because Nico has done a better job - and not because of other issues. I can imagine that the pressure level for both is rising with every day.
Q: When you look back at the year of your title win, how did you handle the pressure?
JB: It was a special time and I remember at times the pressure went through the roof, but I have such great memories and it feels just like yesterday in some ways, even if it’s a long time ago.
Q: What kind of attributes do you need to be a world champion?
JB: You need natural ability - which is what every driver in F1 has. You have to realize that this is not enough - you have to build on that in terms of driving and engineering, in terms of fitness and in terms of approach. Also in how you work with the team - and how you build the team around you. And then you have to cope with the pressure, as it is something that you have never experienced before unless you’ve won a world championship. The pressure is immense, because you can never be sure if it will ever come your way again if you don’t grab it now. Lewis has been there before - Nico hasn’t - so let’s lean back and watch.