• Jenson Button Q&A

'It's not just about bolting downforce onto the car'

ESPNF1 Staff
February 24, 2012

Jenson Button talked to the media after his first day back in the car at the Barcelona test, touching on a variety of subjects from using tyres in cold temperatures to handing awards out at the Brits

Jenson Button talks to the media on Thursday evening © Sutton Images
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How was the day?
The day was good. It was nice to get in the car and be able to bosh out 114 laps. Over the three days we've averaged 116 or 117 laps, so it's good that we can do that. It's something that's new to us because we couldn't do that last year or really the year before. It's very useful because you're able to do reliability work, but also you have more time to do set-up work and improve the car and understand the tyres. They might look the same as last year's tyres but there is a very different feeling. So it's about understanding them and getting a good feel for them and working out the way forward, not just for tomorrow, but for the next test and the first race.

Are you happy that it is a big step forward from Jerez?
I would stay there is a good step forward in understanding the car, yes. Also the reliability is much better than in Jerez so we're making steps forward, but there's no big step forwards because we haven't actually changed anything on the car. We've been working with different set-ups but you've got to be very careful with winter testing in terms of the temperatures and how the tyres are working. I think a lot of winter testing is about trying new parts and trying different setups, because it is a completely new car, understanding what those set-ups do and if they are working correctly, but also being careful with the direction you take because when we get to Melbourne and it's 15C warmer the car can react in a very different way. It's testing, it's about understanding the car and understanding the tyres as much as we can in these temperatures. So, yes, in that way we are making good progress.

This circuit is notorious for punishing aero, particularly if you are running close to another car. Did you have that in this session with the new front nose?
I actually got a lot of buffeting with other cars coming past me, I don't think I overtook many cars today. We started our long run after most people this afternoon so they were on a lot less fuel when we were out on the circuit. Most cars were overtaking me but it's nothing that different really, you still get buffeting, you still lose front grip and rear grip and this is probably one of the worst circuits for it. Hopefully it won't be such a big issue when we get to other circuits. Also here the temperatures are so low, you've got a window from 11:30 to 15:30 where the car is working well because the tyres are in their working range. For an hour of that we are having lunch, so it's a little bit frustrating that we can't choose our lunchtime. Most the tyres we have here are of a higher working range, the harder of the tyres - the hard tyre - is the actual tyre that is in the working range here. You're getting a very different feel to what you would expect here.

Jenson, which of the five champions is going to be the most difficult to beat this year and can you beat them all?
I'm hoping my team-mate is going to be the most difficult to beat because that will mean we have a bloody good car. Seb is obviously the favourite, as he should be as he won the last two championships. There have been regulation changes, but still Red Bull will be strong from the word go. But I don't think they will have the advantage they had at the start of the season last year. You'd have to say Seb because of the last two years they've had and the experiences they've been through.

Was your experience at the Brit Awards fun?
There was a lot of sitting down and then standing up for about three minutes. No, it was good fun as I've never really been to anything like that and it was a good experience. I love live music, especially Ed Sheeran he was amazing.

And women as well?
I didn't see any of them, I was too busy working. The guy on stage, Ed Sheeran, ginger guy, amazing. If you ever get a chance you should see him live. And Adele, obviously.

Jenson Button leaves the pits © Sutton Images
McLaren in the past few years have been very quick to change direction and bring in new parts. Can we expect new parts next week and before Melbourne?
There will definitely be something new before Melbourne. We have an update on the car for the first race, but it's not a completely straightforward update. It's not just about bolting downforce onto the car, it's slightly more than that I would say. I just hope that we're going in the right direction. The windtunnel says we are so I'm looking forward to the update next week and then we can start balancing the car and finding a direction for the first race. It's the same for a lot of people, we do a lot of testing with the launch cars and then we bolt on a different package for the first race and a lot of it you have to do all over again. It's important to understand what does what and if everything works correctly, so that if you find yourself in a situation at the next test and you need a direction you know exactly where to go.

It seems that you and Ferrari took a different route to the other teams, talking about the exhaust in particular. But Ferrari is changing now and you are not changing…
It's just the direction we took and we don't think it's wrong. It's the same at the front of the car. Our car looks very different to other cars. They're all similar in a way with the drop-down nose from the tub, which is different to what we have. But we've always been different at the front end anyway. We don't know what is better and what is worse or if it's just different, we really don't know and I don't think we will ever know for sure. The way Formula One cars are now we are so limited in what we can do that it is more how the car looks more than anything else.

What are you reading out of the long run times? If you listen to Red Bull they keep saying look at McLaren.
The long run times, we all look at them. We say we're going to do our own work and get our heads down and we do that, but it's difficult not to look at the big screen with all the times on. It's interesting to see what people were doing and this time it's even more interesting because we get to know what tyres people were running and that makes a big difference. You can look at the times now and say that guy looks quick on that run, we can't do that time. But if you're on a completely different tyre it could be possible and he could be slow. It's really, really tricky. We tried three different tyres on our long runs and got very different results from the tyres than what we expected and I think other people will be finding the same. So it's whichever tyres you run, if they're new or old seems to make a very big difference. A couple of seconds in lap time in the first few laps.

So, Jenson, you're saying that end-of-stint tyre life that you could take advantage of sometimes last year needs a bit more work on this car?
I think everyone is trying to find their feet with the tyres. Some of the tyres are in their working range here, whereas other tyres where you would think you would find a lot of time aren't in their working range. It can feel quite wrong on some of the tyres - I'm not going to point out which ones - but my runs I found very inconsistent on some tyres and other tyres very consistent. So it's not so much our set-up but how the tyres are working on the circuit here in winter testing. You've got to take the results with a pinch of salt and hope that the next test is warmer. When we have more downforce we'll get a better result for what we'll have at the first race.