Q&A with Jensen Button
Watch your rear’ is the demand of the season - your rear tires, that is. With the ban on refueling meaning heavy fuel loads of up to 170 kilos at the start of a race in 2010, looking after your rubber could well make the difference between winning and losing. World champion Jenson Button is renowned for his ability to manage tire wear, making him a hot contender for another title - especially as he has now remolded the McLaren cockpit to his liking…
Q: Jenson, how are you doing in the car?
Jenson Button: My day was good actually. Yesterday as well. It is always interesting working in the wet because the finer details you really need to work in the wet because you have a lot less grip. So we did a lot of work to make sure that I felt one hundred percent good in the car and I must say that my ‘new home’ feels comfortable and I feel great in the cockpit now. My two test days have been very promising. In the wet we did a lot of set-up work and tried to come to terms with two different types of tires - the wet tire and the intermediate. Today in the dry it was easier and for the first time I felt good in the car - good enough to do set-up work and find a balance with the car and work with different components. It was positive, although there is still a lot of work ahead of us. The basic car is a good base line I think. Jumping in the car this morning it immediately felt great, but I have no illusions that there is still a long way to go before we have a car that is capable of winning races. Most of the day the car was reliable until a little hiccough at the end, but it was nothing severe. I had a warning light so I stopped the car and now we have to find out what the reason was - probably a sensor issue. There was no damage.
Q: So what was your program today?
JB: I was working on the balance and trying lots of different things, mechanically and aerodynamically. A lot of it is not new but it’s a completely different car to work with so I am trying the extremes and finding a place where I feel comfortable and happy with the balance.
Q: Are you satisfied with the number of laps you’ve done - compared for example with Alonso, who did 129 to your 83?
JB: Well I would for sure like to do another two days, but it’s not about putting in as many laps as possible. We know our car is reliable and that is always important - and that’s why you normally do so much mileage. When you’re testing different things you don’t necessarily do big mileage - we are doing back-to-back and set-up work and at the moment for me that's more important than putting big distances on the tires. I am very happy with how the program was today.
Q: It’s a new car and a new experience, but do you really feel as a driver that there is a completely different design philosophy behind this car and the one you drove before?
JB: I think basically a Formula One car is a Formula One car. There are different routes to getting the best car, but the feeling I have in the car is not that dissimilar to what I'm used to driving, so it's not a completely different style of design. In a positive way I feel really at home in the car. I start to feel like a part of this car and I think that I can feel anything that is happening with the car - and that is so important if you jump into a new car and your surrounding is so different.
Q: So it’s a big change from Valencia?
JB: Well, I wasn’t in the car properly. The seat was not quite right and it took a while until we got it right, but the good thing is it is right now and we could concentrate on set-up work - and that’s what we’ve done.
Q: How is it going with the new tires? Was there an issue with graining?
JB: This is quite an abrasive surface here. The wet tires felt like they would last forever, but the intermediate had a much shorter life span than the wets.
Q: One of your colleagues said of you that you are able to preserve tires well in a race. Will that ability play a bigger factor this season?
JB: Yes, I think so. This is an area we are now working on. I think it is something that everybody will have to improve given the scenario we will face this year. With a fuel load of 160 kilos at the start of the race it is important to look after your rear tires. As soon as you have an issue with the rears with that much fuel on you can damage them very quickly. I see a lot of people doing long runs with high fuel and that is the reason for it - to see what happens to the rear tires. We have done some runs with high fuel to see what happens and get some useful information.