Q: Jenson, there still seems to be a massive workload ahead of you before you reach the grid on Sunday. Does the absence of Fernando (Alonso) mean even more work for you, as you know the car better than Kevin (Magnussen)?
Jenson Button: I also don’t know the car that well. I also didn’t do that many laps. It is good that I know how Kevin works - we spent one year together as team mates and I feel that he learnt a lot last season on the mechanical side and working with the engineers, so I am sure that we will get the best out of the car for both of us this weekend. Sure, Fernando is the more experienced driver - but he’s not here.
Q: After the winter tests and today’s running, what do you realistically expect on Sunday?
JB: To be honest I don’t know what to expect. In FP1 we couldn’t do as much running as we would have liked and ended up with only one timed lap - that basically was also the case in FP2, and Kevin had an off. So yes, things could be smoother. But the balance is not too bad - that is promising. We’ve been working on the issues that we had at the tests and I hope they won’t plague us here in the race, but in reality the situation is still that every lap that we can do counts for us - it’s still a massive learning process. We still have no idea how we are doing compared to our competitors - and only the race on Sunday will give a hint of where we are.
Q: Were the issues in FP1 and FP2 the same?
JB: No, in FP1 it was a relatively easy fix whereas in FP2 it was a much more complicated matter, but they are looking at it now and hopefully in FP3 we will get a good number of laps before qualifying and the race. We haven’t done a race weekend as one team - as McLaren Honda - so there is still a lot to learn for us.
Q: How do you view the gap to Mercedes? 3.7 seconds is quite a number…
JB: Yes, that’s what it is. It’s big. And it’s about 2.5 seconds to the next quickest car after Mercedes. That’s still a big chunk but it’s a lot less than 3.7 seconds!
Q: You must have some sort of idea about your new car by now…
JB: The basic car - the feel of it - is positive, but as I said: it still needs a lot of work and we need to put a lot of downforce on the car. But the basic car is good. It is a very important car for us - for the future of McLaren Honda. The new philosophy and the direction we go in terms of aerodynamics is very important for the future. In terms of the engine, the driveability is very good - that is something that we’ve got sorted already and that is great - so let’s see what we can do this weekend.
Q: Do you feel that there is a kind of void because Fernando is not here?
JB: On a race weekend you focus on your own situation, you don’t really look around. And drivers come and go in the paddock, so it’s no big deal. Sure, having an experienced team mate does make a difference, so yes, I was excited about having Fernando as team mate, but he’s not here so we will work together as garage neighbours at other races this year.
Q: How much will reliability be an issue for the race?
JB: Of course that is always on your mind when you have rather limited mileage under your belt. We have to get the best out of the situation that we can. To be honest, I don’t have any real target for a result.
Q: Do you think that’s a situation you’ll have to get used to?
JB: Hopefully not for too long! It was a difficult winter, and that doesn’t go away in one blink. So we have to put our heads down and work our way up again.
Q: What is more of an issue: reliability or pace?
JB: Ha, we need a bucket load of both right now! (laughs) We are all in here together and we will fight as hard as we can to get the best result we can this weekend. And hopefully we will be competitive sooner rather than later.
Q: 15 years ago you made your debut at this very race. That’s a pretty long time ago. How do you reflect on that time?
JB: The most I can say is that the time has flown by. I was talking with Lewis (Hamilton) just the other day about our time in the sport - I am heading into my 16th season and he his ninth, and I don’t know which is more surprising! (laughs) We have agreed that the best you can do is to enjoy every moment. Yes, you have ups and downs, but as long as the ups outnumber the downs it’s a good career. The funny thing is that I still feel like a kid in a candy store when I get into an F1 car - and as long as this feeling is there I will go on.