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Jenson Button Q&A: Drivers must push teams to catch Mercedes

17 Apr 2014

McLaren’s Jenson Button will be aiming for another podium finish in Sunday’s 2014 Formula 1 UBS Chinese Grand Prix. The former champion admits there is little hope of overhauling Mercedes in Shanghai, but insists he and his fellow drivers can play a key role in gradually closing the gap to the Silver Arrows…

Q: Are you expecting the performance of the car to be better here in China than it was in Bahrain two weeks back?

Jenson Button: Finishing was the bigger problem at the last race. I think our pace was alright. We had some issues that had stopped us from racing, but if we would have finished I believe we would have had a reasonable result. At the first race we were able to get our act together and that’s probably the reason why we stood out as the second fastest team on the grid. At the second race already you could see that four or five other teams would be competitive and fighting for the third slot on the podium. If it is going to be better than the cars from our competitors I cannot say. The circuit here is really good, I enjoy this place. Also it has gone pretty well for us here in the past. I believe I was fifth last year, which wasn’t too bad in that difficult year for us. I think we know how to set up the car around here, and we are aiming - like everyone else bar the Mercedes - for P3. Even if they were to make some serious mistakes in the race, it would be almost impossible to beat them at the moment. For us it is important to make some good points this weekend, especially since both cars did not finish in Bahrain, and we are still number three in the constructors’ championship.

Q: It is a pretty tight field, if you take out the Mercedes. What do you think this season may still bring?

JB: I really enjoyed the last race, as there were so many cars that were competitive. Also some good wheel-to-wheel action, and hopefully we will have some more of that here too. We have brought some upgrades - I guess all the bigger teams have - so we will see where we are very soon.

Q: There has been a big change of management at Ferrari earlier this week, as there was at McLaren ahead of this season. How long do you think it takes for a boss to embed himself into a Formula One team?

JB: I think this has to be seen individually. With Eric (Boullier) and us it was probably different, as he had quite a bit of experience in Formula One. With the new team principal at Ferrari I understand that he has not that much experience in motor racing. I don’t think that they would have employed him if they were not sure that he was correct for the job and up to speed quickly. It is sad to not see Stefano (Domenicali) around in the sport, as I think he was quite a character and I got along very well with him. This is a very competitive sport and when things are not going right then things have to change. Looking at the bigger picture, I was the last driver to win a championship before Red Bull Racing won almost everything in the past four years, so it is maybe quite healthy this year if things change. I think that this year mixes up things a little bit more, and when you have different teams rising to the top, this helps the environment within a team too. There is a good fighting spirit in all the teams up and down the pit lane at the moment.

Q: The FIA has granted Gene Haas a F1 entry slot with an American team; how important do you see this for Formula One racing?

JB: If it happens it is great. Having a race in Austin has helped getting a good fan base in the United States, although it still needs to be bigger, and this is why it would be good to have another Grand Prix in the US elsewhere. Having an American F1 team would also definitely help the fan base to grow. It is a brave move, and if anyone can do it, he definitely can. It will be a tough one though, especially if you are basing yourself in the USA, as I guess he will also employ people from Europe and the UK. There is for sure a different lifestyle that comes with the task. For sure the first couple of years will be tough, but he seems to be an intelligent person and will employ the right people to succeed with this project.

Q: You have been team mates with Lewis Hamilton before; could you describe what Nico Rosberg is up against this year?

JB: Lewis for me is probably the quickest guy on the grid over one lap, and we all know that Formula One is more than that. So I think that Nico wins in some other areas, but when Lewis is in good form he is very hard to beat. But as experienced drivers, we learn how to find weaknesses and work on that.

Q: How can you stop Mercedes from winning this year’s championship?

JB: I need to keep pushing the team. I hear some drivers saying that we are just drivers, but we are not. We help the team develop the car and beat the Mercedes. They have done a great job though, and for us it will not be an overnight job to catch up on them.