Button much happier now that Hamilton is gone
Jenson Button did not say it out loud, but at McLaren's launch the inference could have easily been made that he is a lot happier now that his teammate's name is Sergio Perez and not Lewis Hamilton.
The Button and Hamilton pairing worked professionally for McLaren, who were frequently at pains to say the pair genuinely got along, despite being in an intense rivalry with each other. But outside the realms of the paddock, the 2009 champion admits they hardly saw each other as they were too busy with their own campaigns. They met socially even more rarely.
So for Button to exclaim that he is "pretty damn excited" because "fresh starts are always fun", makes it easy to see what the source of his levity is.
On his new team-mate, who has joined McLaren after an impressive 2012 season with Sauber, Button said: "It's good to see he has really been getting into the spirit of McLaren and spending a lot of time here, either doing sponsor activities or developing his relationship with the team. When Lewis and myself were here together we never used to see each other. It used to be one day in the simulator and out the other,"
Button added: "I'm pretty damn excited, more than I have been in any season since I came into F1 with Williams back in 2000. Maybe it's because I know the direction the car designers have taken with the MP4-28 and believe that I have my best chance of winning the world championship with McLaren. Or just because fresh starts are always fun. It's been fun working with a new driver."
Button's relationship with Hamilton hit a low last year when the latter publicly revealed his chagrin that his team-mate had disrespected him by unfollowing him on Twitter. It later emerged that Button had never followed Hamilton on the site in the first place. But this year Button is looking forward to his new role as the established driver, who has a vast amount of experience compared to his 23-year-old team-mate. And he is hoping to break Red Bull's hegemony on the world title, with a much-improved machine.
"I guess I have so much experience with the team that that has played a big part for me," Button said. "That, plus my feedback which helped with the direction of the design, and the fact that the team and I have identified the mistakes that we made at times in 2012 and are confident that they will be resolved, make me feel this way.
"It's so important that this is a team that listens to their drivers, because to do my best I have to have a car that works around me. The input I have been able to make in the way it has been designed is massively important to me. I'm not a designer or an aerodynamicist, as I have said many times, but I am the guy in the car who can tell those guys exactly what it is doing and what he wants from them.
"If I get that, a car that behaves the way that I want it to, then I can win races and I can challenge for the world championship."
The one discordant note in the presentation in Woking was the absence of technical director Paddy Lowe, who was recently linked to both Williams and Mercedes. Choosing his words with great care, Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal, responded to questions about the missing man. "One certainty is that Paddy will be part of the team for another year. It's less certain beyond that. That is something that we will have some certainty on in the near future.
"Clearly there is a lot of media interest and I think it is good that Paddy concentrates on doing his job. I don't think he wants to create embarrassment to his team or his colleagues, so on his own election he felt it not appropriate to be here."
It was up to Perez to bring back a sunny disposition to proceedings and he expressed his willingness to learn from Button. "He has a lot of talent, he's a great champion," he said. "I admire him a lot and have a lot of respect for him.
"I think together we are going to be good team-mates."
On his own aspirations, Perez was unequivocal: "Definitely, I want to win the world championship. That is my target; it has to be, when you come to the best team." Belfast Telegraph