Q: Jenson, 2009 Monaco GP winner and World Champion of course, welcome back. Unusual circumstances to say the least. What level of preparation have you done for this race and how well do you feel you know the 2017 McLaren F1 car?
Jenson BUTTON: First of all it’s great to be back, good to see so many faces I haven’t seen for six months, apart from TV obviously. The preparation has been good; apart from [the fact that] I haven’t obviously driven the car. These new regulations… so it’s not perfect. The option was to do half a day in Bahrain, which I though was absolutely useless for me to do, a completely different type of circuit. I said to the team, I think it’s best if I do a few days in the simulator.
Obviously as drivers we love the simulator, so I was raring to go. I spent a lot of time in the simulator getting a feel for it. Yeah, it’s been interesting. You know, most of the stuff is the same, but there are a few things that are obviously different, with the difference in regulations, and there are always… it just changes year to year with new technology and what have you. A few things to learn but it’s still a racing car, just got to get used to it being a bit wider.
Q: The McLaren was competitive in Alonso’s hands in Spain in qualifying and this track is now McLaren’s best chance of scoring some points in the near future. And I guess you need them now after Sauber bagged some points last time out in Spain. So, although this substitute appearance was supposed to be fairly low pressure, do you actually feel there is a lot of pressure on you to score some points for the team?
JB: Definitely not. I’m very relaxed. Very excited, actually. It’s interesting coming back for one grand prix. It being Monaco it’s very special. I’ve won here before, I’ve lived here for 17 years, and I’ve had some really good experiences here. It’s exciting. But I don’t feel any pressure – none at all. I will obviously get in the car and I will do the best job I can, that’s what I’m here to do and everything I do in life is the same: you want to be competitive, you want to get the best out of yourself and you want to get the best out of the equipment and the team that you are working with. That hasn’t changed.
The car seemed to be working well in Barcelona in qualifying. Fernando did a good job. I think it still proves that the car itself is working well. I drove it in the simulator and I drover the upgrade, which I was misquoted on by the way, but I drove the upgrade and it was a definite improvement and there are more improvements here as well. If it’s all straightforward this weekend, we should be reasonably… reasonably competitive.
Q: Before I pass it to the floor, one quick question to Nico and Jenson on driving these wider 2017 cars around these streets. They are quite a bit wider, so from the point of view of judging the barriers and overtaking, maybe a thought on that Nico?
JB: I haven’t driven the car, so I don’t know! To be fair, it’s probably not a bad thing stepping in it here. It’s going to be a shock to the system anyway driving the car so… I think it’s going to be a little bit unusual for everyone having the car wider, but you’re still sat in the middle, so you should be able to judge things pretty easily.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action and Speed Sport) Jenson, when the idea was broached to you was it an instant yes, or did you have to think about it, even for a few seconds?
JB: I asked my dogs and they said “we can do without you for a week or so”. My girlfriend said “you gotta do what you do” and I said yes, and it was my decision. I could have said no if I wanted to, as we all can – no one wants a racing drive who doesn’t want to drive. Really excited but obviously the preparation could have been better if I had the opportunity to test the car in a proper test, but that’s not the way Formula One works. You’ve got to be ready.
I think fitness-wise that’s not an issue. I’m sure the neck is going to be a bit sore after Thursday, even around Monaco. But we’ve got Friday off, so a little bit of rest. Mikey Muscles is back for a one-off race, my physio as well, so he’s going to be rubbing me once again. So it’s an exciting challenge and that’s what it’s all about isn’t it and that’s what we’re here for and I’m really looking forward to it.
Q: (Peter Farkas – Auto Motor) Jenson, obviously you have driven cars with more downforce before, before 2009 actually. Wouldn’t you have done the Bahrain test even if you hadn’t driven those other cars or do you think it would have been help for you?
JB: Well, in hindsight it’s always easier to say “no, I wouldn’t have” because I would have only done 17 laps the day that I would have tested and I was only going to do half a day anyway. So, no, I think Bahrain is such a different circuit to here. I think as long as you understand the way the car is working and obviously I have every bit of information possible and I run through it for days in terms of set-up work and what helps the car in certain ways and how it reacts to certain things, those are the key things you need to understand and those things you can do in the simulator, which is what I have done. Obviously it’s wider, so that’s the bigger thing for me.
In terms of the way the tyres work. You know they have been pretty tricky for the last few years. I know they work differently, but you work your way around it and I have a couple of days to do that. It’s also warm, which helps. Over the weekend there will be things where I’m sure it will be a little bit tricky but it’s about putting the time and the effort in working around those issues and hopefully coming out on top.
Q: (Barna Zsoldis – Nemzeti Sport) Jenson, according to the official announcement in Monza you are now a key member of a very innovative three-driver line-up. If it’s like that, why did you hesitate to say yes or no and what is your exact position in the team now?
JB: That hasn’t changed. I’m still an ambassador for the team, some might say a third driver and this weekend I’ve got the opportunity to race the car. I was going to be here anyway and instead of sitting around drinking champagne I can actually do what I’m supposed to do and that’s race cars for a living. Very lucky position and as I said it’s a very exciting position to be in – a challenge, but a good one.
Q: (Andrew Frankel – Forza) Jenson, Fernando this weekend at Indy. Should he do as well as we would all like him to do, would you gentleman all consider having a go at Indianapolis?
JB: Indy’s not really been something that I’ve thought about. Personally, I was surprised that Fernando was interested in doing it but we all like different things. We’re racing drivers, we’re not just F1 drivers and we like trying other sports. For me, I’d like to do Le Mans one day, I think it would be a great experience, great team atmosphere. Obviously it has to be the right opportunity, like Hulkenberg had .
I would like to race in NASCAR, I think that’d be fun. Yeah, I went along to one of the races this year, Jimmie Johnson invited me and I had a great time and loved seeing ‘the show’ as it is. It’s very different to other motorsports but equally it’s a challenge. It’s a massive challenge. Who knows? And then there’s the other motorsports that I love like Rallycross as well. There are many things – but Indy hasn’t been up there for me, for many different reasons.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto Motor und Sport) Jenson, are you following what Fernando is doing at Indy and will you watch the Indy 500 on Sunday?
JB: What time is it on? [6pm] Oh, yeah, I’m sure that I will. I watched when he drove the car for the first time, which is always interesting, seeing a driver’s reaction. Actually, probably it was more the reaction to the media being right next to him every second that he was out of the car. That’s the bit that I loved watching the most – because we all know how Fernando loves the media so seeing his reaction to that was even better than seeing his reaction to driving the car around the circuit. So yeah, it’s absolutely mad, isn’t it, Indy, in terms of the media and how much attention it’s getting – which is fantastic for the sport.
I just want to see what Fernando says when he gets back. But of course I have an interest. I’ve been team-mates with Fernando for a couple of years and raced against Fernando for many more years than that. It’s interesting to see how he does. Very different type of motorsport. There’s a lot of talent out there, talented drivers that have been doing that for so many years, so it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on. Qualifying went pretty well and the race is obviously something very, very different. Wheel-to-wheel around there, it’s pretty mad. I wish him the best but the most important thing is that he stays safe, which we’ve already talked about.
Q: (Leigh Diffey – NBC Sports) Jenson, if you haven’t already noticed, as the weekend goes on you’ll see how much the paddock is enjoying you being back…
JB: Thank you Sweetie!
…but for you, what’s it like being away from the paddock?
JB: It’s been amazing! Nothing against the paddock because it is great to be back and it’s great to see you guys. This has been my world, it’s been my life for so many years. You’re never going to just walk away and forget about it. It’s a very special feeling for me being back here, seeing so many friends and colleagues and what have you. It’s nice – but my life away from Formula One has been pretty cool. So… very different.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in one place rather than traveling around the world and flying three times a week and I’m in a very lucky position where I can do that. To be fair, I’ve been busier than ever because I’ve been training really hard for my passion, which is triathlons. I’m flat out with training, and picking up dog poop, so it’s been busy, yeah.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) This special circuit (Monaco), what’s your favourite corner?.
JB: Favourite corner… it’s a tricky one around Monaco because it’s not just about one, it’s difficult to pick one corner out. Tabac is pretty crazy. Most of the corner here it’s easy-enough to pick out the apex and the exit but Tabac is quick: very difficult to pick the apex and the exit. It’s very tough with the barriers.
If they were different colours maybe it would help. Yeah, that’s the toughest. Also, from what I’ve heard with the cars this year, Tabac and the Swimming Pool are the corners that are really going to be a step above last year – and the entry to Casino. Slow-speed, maybe not so much – but high speed is going to be pretty awesome.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Jenson, could I just ask your thoughts on the terror attack in Manchester early this week and whether as a British driver you plan to run any sort of tribute on your helmet or car his weekend.
JB: Obviously, it’s horrific. It’s amazing how often it seems to be happening all around the world and more and more in Great Britain. So, yeah, there aren’t many words for it really apart from my thoughts are with everyone that’s been affected. The most heart-breaking thing… I mean every life is important but with mostly kids going to the concert that’s what I think hurts the most for everyone.
I’m not a parent, but I know a lot of people who are and I think that’s what hits home the most, how heartless certain people can be. But it’s also been a pretty bad week for people we know and respect in motorsport as well, and the cycling world, well the triathlon world for me. So, it’s been tough with Nicky losing his fight over the last the last few days – it just shows you how precious it is. You’ve got to enjoy every moment. That’s it really.
Q: (inaudible) Jenson, you qualified for the triathlon World Championships. What are your expectations regarding your triathlon career?
JB: I’m old! I think that’s my comments on that. I will always be amateur, never a professional at a sport like that. There’s a lot of big talent that’s British, which is great. The Brownlee brothers, Holly Lawrence, which is great – but for me it is more about just pushing myself.
I enjoy it a lot and obviously I’m going to the World Championship – and if you’re going you might as well aim to win it – and that’s my aim, as an age-grouper though, not as a professional. That’s what all the hard work’s for this year. Looking forward to that. It’s in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as well so it should be fun.