Jenson Button hopes to keep winning habit in Australia despite a difficult winter
McLaren star reckons they couldn't match rivals' times in testing
By Mike Wise in Melbourne. Last Updated: 15/03/13 12:40am
Jenson Button: Has won Australian GP three times in the last four years
Jenson Button is hoping he can make another flying start to the season this weekend in spite of the headaches McLaren have experienced during testing.
Having won the Australian Grand Prix three times in the last four years, Button has developed quite an affinity with Albert Park - although quite where the happy habit comes from is something that remains a mystery to the 33-year-old.
"It's been very kind to me, Albert Park," Button said in the paddock on Thursday. "I don't know why though. I like the layout and I can always say it's exciting starting a new season, but that's the same for all of us.
"It's a great first race. The fans are very enthusiastic, the whole of the paddock are excited to be racing again...it's nice to start the season fresh. And it's such a beautiful place as well. I've been here since Sunday and have had a good time chilling out with friends.
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"I went cycling yesterday, the same route as always. I had a beer after - which is the same as always. I'm not superstitious though."
Perhaps Button's successes in Melbourne stem instead from an ability to cope with atypical situations. Certainly the 5.303km Albert Park layout is not a typical F1 track and this weekend's mixed weather forecast - showers are expected on both Saturday and Sunday - might also play into his hands.
In contrast, Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya offers a truer test of a car's performance. And with McLaren working hard to understand their MP4-28 - much changed in comparison to its predecessor - Button admitted that they are, in that sense, currently lagging behind their rivals.
"The first two tests weren't great really because we had so much to test. We had so much mileage to put on parts we couldn't do any set-up work," he said.
"The last test was much better but we haven't run the car the same for two days in terms of set-up. It's not been perfect but on the last day of testing I got a much better feel for the car.
"I found something with the set-up and got a direction with the car I liked. But if you look at the testing times, there were certain times that we definitely could not have done in testing in Barcelona.
He added: "It's different here. I know it's going to be cooler on Sunday but it's still hotter than the test, with a very different asphalt. And as we know, it's just a very different circuit.
"We'll see. But I think we're just excited about getting out there and seeing where we stand. It's going to be mixed conditions this weekend, so it's going to be tough to see where we are. The important thing is to make the best of what we have at this moment in time."
McLaren are clearly hoping they can maintain a steeper development than their rivals throughout the 19 races.
"Most cars are fundamentally the same as last year," Button said. "They've developed it, whereas with us it's very different: the geometry of the car is different; the way the aerodynamics work is different. It's always going to be tougher if you've made bigger changes.
"We still don't think it should hinder us at the first race, but it should really help us throughout the season."
Button was speaking just a couple of hours after McLaren said that they will part ways with title sponsor Vodafone at the end of 2013.
A replacement will be announced at the end of the season, with all speculation pointing towards a deal with Telmex - backers of Button's new team-mate Sergio Perez.
Button added: "It's sad to see them go because since I've been with the team Vodafone's been here. And they've been here for many more years than that - they won the World Championship with Lewis.
"They're putting their money and resources elsewhere. They're not just pulling out of McLaren; they're not going to be involved in F1, motorsport and other sports as well. It's just the way things happen with different sponsors."