Mar.10 (PVM) Jenson Button made his grand prix debut in Melbourne back in 2000, he won there in 2009, and will be aiming for at least a podium finish, admitting that the Mclaren team tackle the season opener in far better shape than 12 months earlier. Below is a Q&A with the 2009 world champion ahead of the Australian GP.
Melbourne has been a great track for you – what are the highlights?
Button: “There are lots. My first grand prix was here, way back in 2000 – it was just a buzz to be in F1; it was pretty intense, the whole weekend just flew past pretty quickly. I had pole here in 2006 – another good memory. But I think the two most significant memories for me were, in 2009, winning from pole for Brawn GP. It was a momentous race for the entire team and it felt so sweet to give them such a reward.
“And winning here in 2010… just an incredible day. Going early for the dry tyre, then almost losing the car at Turn Three, putting the others off following my example, and then finding a rhythm and having a fantastic car underneath me. That was my first win for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes – it was completely unexpected, but a really significant result for me personally.”
What is it about Melbourne that makes it so special?
Button: “It’s hard to put your finger on it. It is a special race – you step off the plane after a long, cold European winter and it’s usually very sunny and the people are incredibly welcoming. I think the circuit is a nice challenge too – it’s not a particularly technical track, but the surface is always rubbering in across the whole race weekend, and it’s a place that encourages nip-and-tuck racing. For a street track, it’s got a really good flow, you can really find a good rhythm – and it’s got some fast corners too, which is unusual for a road course.
“I think the new rules have definitely made it a more competitive place – it’s easier to pass here now than it ever was. And I think the potential of a second DRS zone will be a real benefit – last year, along the startline wasn’t quite enough for overtaking – I think we’ll get more benefit from a second zone. Finally, the walls around here are close enough to keep your mind focused. I can’t remember a race here that wasn’t eventful or surprising in some way – so it’s the perfect place to kick off the season.”
How confident do you feel after the winter that you’re set for a strong start to your campaign?
Button: “I’m happy with our preparations. You always want more laps and more time in the car, but, unlike last year, we’ve had a very solid start to our pre-season. It’s been very difficult to read pace over the Winter because a lot of teams have been playing their cards close to their chests: I think it’s going to be extremely close, and I can’t wait to find out where we sit in the pecking order.”