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Jenson Button Q&A: Williams within range for McLaren

25 Jul 2014

They may not yet be challenging for podiums, but it’s no secret that McLaren have been making definite progress in recent races. According to Jenson Button, updates to the MP4-29 at Hockenheim should work even better here in Budapest, and could even give them shot at taking on Williams, whose FW36 is not expected to be so well suited to the tight and twisting Hungaroring. Button chatted about this and more following Friday practice in Hungary…

Q: Jenson, the obligatory question: what place does the Hungarian Grand Prix hold in your heart?

Jenson Button: This race is still very close to my heart. (laughs) It was my first victory here and every driver will tell you that his first victory is something that will always linger fondly in his memory. It is the fulfilment of a dream that you have when you’re growing up. Then my 200th Grand Prix happened here - and I was also able to win, this time for McLaren - so yes, you can say that this track is very dear to me. It has treated me very nicely in important moments.

Q: It’s mid season, it probably hasn’t gone as well as you had hoped, but if you were to rate yourself, are you happy with your performance?

JB: I would give myself 10 out of 10! (laughs) You have to have confidence in your ability, so in terms of working with the team this year and developing the car and finding a direction, I am very happy with what I’ve done. I had some fun at some of the races - like in Melbourne, coming through - or in Silverstone: that too was a race I very much enjoyed. And that is important for me.

Q: There have been some situations for you this season that can only explained by bad luck. Is that is part of your considerations?

JB: I don’t really think about things that I can’t control. There are so many variables - and sometimes these go to your advantage and sometimes not. That’s Formula One.

Q: There are some drivers out there who could focus on a McLaren cockpit in the future - or two to be more precise: there is a rumour out there that Alonso and Vettel have been approached - and we heard quite some time ago that McLaren would not have an issue taking Alonso back. What is your feeling about all that?

JB: I do feel very much part of this team. I have worked with them for many years. For me I don’t understand why Sebastian should want to leave Red Bull - and Fernando has a long-term contract with Ferrari so I don’t see that. But true, that’s good rumour!

Q: The FIA is now handing out fewer penalties in a race. Has the last race been harder - we’ve seen lots of ‘hard’ overtaking and wheel banging?

JB: No, not harder races. As drivers we know our limits. We all know pretty well how far you can push it. So no issues at all.

Q: Obviously Felipe Massa has complained about some of the young drivers. Do you agree with him?

JB: No.

Q: When you look back to the German Grand Prix one week ago, was it a mistake that you were called in on lap 31 for the second time? Was that too early?

JB: After every race we go through the race and the strategy we’ve been running - and yes, we realized that this manoeuvre was a mistake. But as long as we learn from it and make sure that we don’t make the same mistake again, then it’s fine.

Q: So it was too early, is that what you’re saying?

JB: Yes, it was too early - or we should have pitted earlier again with the next stop. But a Grand Prix is a moving target and it’s not always easy to see the right from the wrong. We are usually good at understanding these things - only at that race we got it wrong a bit.

Q: McLaren brought updates to Hockenheim - did they deliver? And will they also work here?

JB: It was definitely a move forward and it should also help us here. Actually it should benefit us here more than in Germany as it is more of a high-downforce package. And in some ways it did - on the soft tyres and high fuel. Where I see a bit of an issue is the balance of the car over a single fast lap - we have to put our heads together tonight and see what solution we can come up with for tomorrow’s qualifying. When I look at the time sheet I find it impossible to say where we stand. We are sure not up to the speed of the Mercedes and Red Bull, but from today’s experience we should be in the range of the Williams - and they had a podium in Germany.

Q: Does that mean that we could see another ‘Button surprise’ here?

JB: Hardly. Because the updates didn’t translate into a seven or eight-tenth step. So no. The Mercedes are still way ahead and so are the Red Bulls. Ferrari and Williams are difficult to judge but my guess is no podium here. Not this time.