Jenson Button Q&A: On returning to the front in 2014 & the challenge of F1's new era
After McLaren's 2013 fall from grace, Jenson is hoping for better
By Sky Sports Online. Last Updated: 24/01/14 3:08pm
Jenson Button remains McLaren's experienced team leader
Ahead of his fifth season at McLaren, 2009 World Champion Jenson Button looks ahead to the challenges that await in the new campaign.
What are your realistic aims for the 2014 season?
Jenson Button: "Obviously, we want to get back to the front. We want to have a better season than we did in 2013, too. But it's really difficult to accurately predict anything right now - these are such huge changes that they'll have a massive impact on the competitive order, so we need to wait and just see how things shake out.
"Our aim must be to have a smooth and productive winter; I'm very keen to learn all about the new formula and our new car, and I want us to be in a position where we head to the opening flyaways feeling comfortable with our package, yet still ready to absorb and learn more as we go.
"I don't think anybody's anticipating the next few months to be easy - I can't imagine anybody in the pitlane would admit to that - but our aim must be to make progress all the time, and to learn positively as we go."
Is it difficult to get to grips with so many changes all at once?
JB: "It's part of the job of a Formula 1 driver. I've spent my whole career jumping from different specification cars - I've driven V10s, V8s, I've raced on grooved tyres, on slicks, with KERS, with DRS, with traction control, without it, with refueling, without it. I'm still here!
"Obviously, there's a period of adaption, but the way I drive - working upwards to find the grip level, rather than working downwards - has always made it quite a seamless transition. As a driver, it's just an exciting time. I'm really looking forward to it - I love the mental challenge of tackling such a complex task; there's so much to get your teeth into, and the prospect of problem-solving, and pulling apart difficult concepts and drilling down to find the best solution - that really motivates me."
Nevertheless, are you worried about the state of flux ahead of this new formula?
JB: "I think every single person in Formula 1 is sitting on the edge of the unknown. That's both exciting and unsettling in equal measure. There will be lots of things going through my mind when I settle myself into the cockpit for the first time in Jerez next week, but, above all else, what I'll be looking for is that simple, positive feeling you get from knowing that the car beneath you is a solid platform; one you can work with, and one you can develop throughout the season.
"I don't think anybody will be coming out of this first test feeling certain that they've cracked this new formula. I think it'll be more of a case of slowly peeling away successive layers as the engineers and designers gather more information and gain an understanding of how the cars and power-units are behaving; and we'll see that being gradually refined throughout the forthcoming tests and into the opening races.
"I think this formula is too big, and too complex, for a single team to feel secure about getting everything right and quickly establishing an advantage. It's about diligently chipping away at it that we'll get there."
Finally, how does it feel having a new team-mate alongside you?
JB: "I haven't really got to know Kevin properly as a team-mate yet. Over the winter, there aren't too many opportunities for us to spend time together, but that will change once we go testing - we'll be working very closely together to share data and gather as much information as we can about what the car's doing, and how we can improve it.
"But, yeah, I've been very impressed by Kevin all along - he clearly did a very good job last year and drove superbly to win the World Series by Renault championship. And I've been pleased by his professionalism and determination this year - it's a very difficult job for any driver in F1 this year, but I'm absolutely sure he'll do a great job."