Following the end of this week’s test in Valencia, all the drivers were modest in their praise of their new cars. All you hear is that their 2010 machine ‘feels positive’ or ‘feels good’; certainly nobody is willing to stick their neck out and state that their car is a potential race winner, as Jenson Button did last year about his eventual title-winning Brawn. This season, however, the reigning world champion is a little more cautious as he reviews his first ride in McLaren’s MP4-25…
Q: Jenson, how was your first day with your new team?
Jenson Button: Oh boy, it sure was a long day! We finished last night at about one in the morning trying to get the seat right in the car. Obviously you have it made in the mock-up, but it is always different when you get in the car and when you get out on the track. It is always a bit different from what you’re expecting it to be. We’ve been doing a lot to make me comfortable in the car, because initially it wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. I was sitting quite high in the car. Today we’ve done a lot of work and it has been really useful. In a way it would have been nice to get some more testing done, set-up work and so on, but this test was always to get used to the environment inside the cockpit, get used to working with the team and to run through all the checks that you always do at the first test. So it has been very useful. We have had to change a lot within the car, but I fit well now, which obviously is good. I feel comfortable and have a good height in the car and that is always important for your own confidence.
Q: So you are not sinking down in the cockpit and have no issues with the visibility?
Jenson Button: Yep, I have got good visibility now. I am nice and low, which is good. I never like being too high in the cockpit. The team has been changing things very quickly, which has been important today. This afternoon we have been able to do some longer runs, which have allowed me to get used to all the systems in the car and with communicating with my engineer. I have worked with him while I am on the circuit and also in the pits. As I said, it has been a very useful day.
Q: What do Wednesday’s times mean? Can we read anything into them?
Jenson Button: I haven’t seen the times. I don’t know.
Q: One all three days Ferrari has set the benchmark and BMW Sauber was the next quickest team. Is that the pecking order for the start of the season?
Jenson Button: I think you can say that Ferrari are fast, but we don’t know how fast. They can’t do that time if they are not competitive, but you never know what fuel they are running when they do those times. Their slower runs, which I’m guessing is when they were running much higher fuel load, were still reasonably good so I guess they are fast. But this is the wrong place and time for us to be thinking about who is quick and who is not. I’m guessing everyone is going to bring updates to Bahrain anyway, and with the difference in fuel loads you could be running 10 kilos or 160 kilos – that’s a massive difference – so it is difficult to read anything into the current lap times. I think in Jerez we might have more of an understanding of when people are running different fuel loads. By then you’ll have an understanding of the difference of those loads and how much time per 10 kilos it really means. Then you can work out who is quick and who isn’t.
Q: How does the balance differ with high or low fuel loads? Is the car behaving significantly differently?
Jenson Button: It definitely does. It was my first day today, so I can’t say too much, but it will always change the balance of the car, and that is something you have got to work on because during the race you will obviously go from 170 kilos to zero fuel so the balance is going to change a lot.
Q: What’s it like having the ‘number one’ sticker on your car?
Jenson Button: It looks great from the outside. Once you are in the car, you don’t think about it. It’s always nice walking into the garage and seeing your name and the number one on the car, but when you get down to business and you close your visor, you don’t think about any number.
Q: The McLaren looks pretty long compared to the Mercedes. Can you feel the difference compared to your old Brawn – especially in the slow corners?
Jenson Button: No, you cannot. I don’t think it makes sense to compare it to last year’s car. They have changed a lot since last year, especially with the smaller front tyres. But the Ferrari looks long as well. Compared to them the Renault and the Williams look tiny – they must be the smallest cars. It’s interesting to see that people have tried different lengths of cars. I think it has to do with the fuel tank but also with other aero things. When I first saw the car I thought it was quite long. But when you see it on the track it doesn’t look that long and it also doesn’t feel like a long-wheelbase car. Obviously long-wheelbase cars seem to be working quite well, if you look at the times Ferrari and Sauber have done, and also what Lewis (Hamilton) did yesterday.
Q: Last year, after a short run in the Brawn, you were sure that the car was going to be a winner. What was your feeling today?
Jenson Button: It’s difficult to say because this is not the best circuit to get a feeling for a new car and how it is going to be at the start of the season. In terms of balance this circuit is different to any other circuit we race on, so the balance is very different to begin with. And today has been a busy day for me as I find my way around the cockpit. At Brawn it was pretty much the same seat and everything worked the same inside the car. There is a lot more to get your head around here – and to work on – before I would make any sort of comment. Lewis’s comments yesterday indicate that he is happy, but we always want more. That’s the way we function. We have a good base to work on.