- Jenson Button
'I'm not thinking I might be slower than Lewis'Laurence Edmondson December 2, 2009
It's been a busy year for Jenson Button, at the beginning of the year he was facing unemployment as Honda withdrew from F1. By October he was Formula One World Champion and in November he released his new book My Championship Year. ESPNF1's Laurence Edmondson spoke to the champion after his book signing at London's Selfridges.
Laurence Edmondson: Where did the idea come from to do a race diary rather than the usual autobiography?
Jenson Button: It came after the winter, it was such a messy winter that I thought the story of the highs and lows of this season would be a good one - starting back in December, which was obviously a massive low point. I think it's a great from Brawn GP's point of view and that of myself. It includes details of race weekends that wouldn't normally be in a book, about the way I'm feeling throughout the race weekend - the highs and lows throughout the season. I just thought it was something to do that was very different. It's the way of the world these days that it's difficult to let the people out there know a little bit more about you, something personal.
How important is it to have a record of your championship winning year - one that you can share with your friends and family as well as the public?
It's so true. Obviously I did this for the people out there but it's also for myself because I can look back in 20 years time, when I'm a grumpy old man, and I can look at it in detail. It stays in the memory but there are certain details that you will forget, like the SMS messages from friends and family - it's really nice to have that. So it's perfect for me and I think for friends and family that have it also. It's interesting for people who know Formula One from the outside world and they obviously read papers - they look at, for example, your website - but this is straight out of my mouth and I think they will like that.
The book documents your time at Brawn and reading it you get the feeling it was a very closely knit team. How does it feel leaving that and going to McLaren?
It was a very difficult decision. I've been with that team for seven years, been there in the good times and the bad times and our dream was always to become world champions together and that's exactly what we achieved in 2009. So it was a tough decision but I felt that after winning the championship that I needed a new challenge and that new challenge is to race alongside Lewis [Hamilton] at McLaren and fight against one of the best drivers in the world.
So does that mean you wouldn't have felt challenged at Mercedes with Nico Rosberg as your team-mate?
I haven't said that... for me it's a challenge being up against Lewis and that's the challenge I want. It's not because he's British, it's because he's one of the best drivers in the world. First of all I think we can work really well together, we have a lot of experience between us. He might have only been in F1 for three years but I think he's gained experience very quickly within the team. So we can work well together and if we do build a car that is a winning car we can then fight it out [for the title].
Talking about building the car, it seems, from the outside at least, that you two have very different driving styles. Lewis seems to prefer oversteer and you seem to prefer a more neutral car. Is that going to be an issue when picking a direction to develop the new McLaren?
There is so much you can adjust with the car, to do with the weight distribution, to do with roll, to do with mechanical set-up, to do with aero... it doesn't always have to be [developed] in one direction. Plus next year, the way the regulations are, we have 150 kilos of fuel on board at one point during the race, so with that much fuel on board you have to be smooth. You have to be very gradual, you have to look after brakes, you have to look after tyres and fuel, so my sort of style should suit the cars next season. But I think if you watch Lewis in his better races, when the car has been a bit more controllable, he's smooth and he's got the best out of the car. This year he's been in a car that seems a little bit loose at the rear and he's able to drive that but I think that Lewis' and my styles won't be that different next season.
Nick Fry has come out with some pretty cutting remarks in the papers recently. He's said that your decision, in the future, could be viewed as stupid and that he isn't prepared to release you from your contract early. How does that make you feel?
All I can say is that I've been with the team for seven years and we've been through a lot together. We've had some great times and we've had some really difficult times, especially last winter, but we pulled through. As I said, my dream and the team's dream was always to win the world championship together, we've achieved that and now I'm moving on. I think that the Mercedes GP team, as it is now, have got a challenge in front of them as well so it's exciting for them. The better challenge for me was to move alongside Lewis and fight him in the same car and that's what really drives me on, that's what excites me in 2010. Who knows who's going to have the best car, it could be the Mercedes, it could be us, it could be the Ferrari, it could be Red Bull - nobody knows. I've made this move because I want a new challenge and it's exciting and hopefully that excitement is not just within me but also out there with the British public. I think it's an exciting challenge for us all.
What's important for a team is to win the constructors', and the drivers' title is also important, but the constructors' is key. They want both drivers to be competitive and they will give both drivers the same opportunity and that will be the same at McLaren as it was a Brawn GP. The difference going to McLaren is that it's a new team for me, it's not going to be easy, it's going to take time to get to know everyone - but it's a challenge I want to take and it's something that I really want at this point in my life. It's never going to be easy going to a new team, especially when you've been with the same team for seven years. But that's a risk I'm willing to take because there are always positives and the negatives on a big decision like this but it's also exciting and that's what I want.
Are you concerned that if Lewis gets a better start to the season, because he knows the team well, that they might support him more?
I wouldn't move to a team if I thought my team-mate was going to have the upper-hand for the first part of the season. I've moved there positive that I can make a difference in the short time before the first race and we'll have to wait and see what happens in Bahrain. But for me I'm not thinking that I might be slower than Lewis - that's not my way of thinking - all I'm thinking about is making sure that I'm ready for the first race. Next year I will be working very hard to make sure that I feel comfortable for when I arrive in Bahrain.
Do you think you are a better driver than Lewis and you can get more out of any car that McLaren throws at you over the course of a season?
Nobody knows that. We're all very confident in our ability and I have just won the world championship so I'm very comfortable with my ability and Lewis is also. He's an exceptional driver and he's going to be a very tough opponent, but nobody knows who is going to come out on top and that is why it's exciting. This is Formula One, this is a sport, and this is a world championship - it's full of drivers who have achieved a lot to get to F1 and I'm racing against one who has achieved a lot in his career. So it's never easy and it's going to be a challenge for Lewis as well.
Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1