Mar.22 (McLaren) Jenson Button kick-started his 2012 F1 world championship season in the best way possible, by winning the season-opening Australian grand prix – his 13th career victory and his third win in the last four years at Albert Park.
The Melbourne weekend is now history and the 2009 world champion looks ahead to the Malaysian grand prix at Sepang, which he won in 2009, and will be confident of a repeat performance at the wheel of the hugely impressive McLaren MP4-27.
Victory in Australia was the best possible way to start the season – how do you feel going in to Malaysia?
Jenson Button: Calm, refreshed and feeling extremely positive. After the race, people asked me if we’d expected to demonstrate the pace that we did in Australia, and I tell them that it was unexpected. Of course, we’d done our sums after winter testing, but you can never be certain whether another team is running with high-fuel or hiding their true pace. So to come away from race one with such a positive result – Vodafone McLaren Mercedes took pole, fastest lap and the victory – is a huge relief for the organisation. But it’s also incredibly motivating: we know we have a great car but we’re not going to sit still with it. We have ambitious plans to develop the car and I know that everybody back at Woking is working hard to bring new components to the track, and that all our mechanics and engineers are flat-out to ensure that we maximise the package that we have this weekend. I think everybody knows that we are a relentless organisation; we can develop a car as well – if not better than – any other team. The difference this year is that we’ve started with a winning package; the challenge will be to maintain that, and I know that’s something we’re all really looking forward to doing.”
You won Malaysia in 2009, and you finished second here last year – is it a circuit you like?
JB: It is. It’s more of a high-speed circuit [than Melbourne], there are some fantastic sweeping corners here and, if the car’s working properly, it’s a real joy to drive. It’s one of the toughest circuits on the calendar because there’s a real range of corners, cambers, a couple of blind apexes and a little bit of gradient. If the car’s working against you, then it becomes painful, but when it’s all switched on, it’s just a great, great circuit to drive. I think we’ve got a car that really works well in the high-speed stuff – we saw that throughout winter testing. So I think the challenge this weekend will be to find the right balance – at this stage in the year, you’re still learning about the car and how to get the best from it. But I think the engineers understand how our car is strong – I know they’re really looking forward to extracting the maximum from it in Sepang this weekend.”
Your victory in Australia was relatively unflustered, are you expecting a stronger challenge this weekend?
JB: As we said repeatedly throughout last year, and we saw time and again with Sebastian [Vettel], if you can qualify strongly and get away cleanly then it’s much easier to control the field, to race cleanly and to get a representative result. I think the race showed that there are several top teams in Formula 1, and I think we can expect them to be fighting for victory in Malaysia. Both Red Bull drivers were very quick in the race, and I think we can expect further strong challenges from Mercedes AMG and Lotus this weekend. Of course, we’re not relaxing – and we go to Malaysia ready for a strong fight.