Jenson Button was buoyant whilst remaining realistic when talking to the media earlier. Badger went along to hear his thoughts on day two of the second test, after he jumped out of the car after completing 121 laps on a breezy Barcelona circuit.
“I would say that it’s the biggest improvement that I’ve felt in the power unit over the last 14 months. The improvement is good, but obviously we are still a long way off from the other guys, and you can see that in the speed traps – but you can definitely feel the difference on the initial part of the straights, which is positive.
The important thing is that we are able to do quite a few laps, we were held up a little bit by a few little niggly things today, and some red flags. But I felt that we could have done a lot more laps today, and I think it shows the reliability, which is really important. We’ve got that sorted, fingers crossed, we can really push the performance with the power unit.”
On developments to the car:
“There’s a lot more bits coming, hopefully this week, and some more in Melbourne for FP1. I’m hoping we won’t be hanging off the back (of the grid) but there’s a lot of work before I feel that we are properly competitive. There’s still a lot of work needed over the next few days to find a set-up that really works for us, because we’re not there.”
On what is left to cover at the test:
“I don’t feel that we’ve really done any proper testing with the car yet, in terms of set-up and what have you. It’s been mostly aero work and understanding if we are in the right place or not, so there hasn’t been any specific driver set-up work.
One other point is that in terms of the drivers ‘feel’ in the car and understanding, and switches, race start, and during the race, our understanding is very good, we don’t have any issues there, so we didn’t have any slip ups, that’s all sorted.
I think now the next two days are very important to us to fine tune the car and find the balance that really works, and as I said, we’re not there yet. We need two very good days to feel ready for Melbourne.”
On the Barcelona breeze today:
“This afternoon the aim was to focus on that (setup), but with the wind today, it’s been really difficult to do any proper running. A lot of it’s been reliability work, and certain set-up work.
I was struggling, I was talking a lot with my engineer’s on the radio about the balance not feeling good, hoping it wasn’t just us – and it wasn’t! A lot of people struggled when they put even soft or supersoft tyres on, their times weren’t what we expected, so that’s a good thing. I’m very happy about that because it wasn’t looking so good. The next two days are very important. We need two clean days, lots of laps, and lots of time on new tyres to get a good feel for this car.”
On targets for the first race:
“I have no targets. My only target is to push, to give it our all, give our maximum, and we’ll see what the results are.
There’s never a positive, me saying a target right now, because as a positive person, you’re always going to target higher than possibly you can achieve, and then you just get knocked down by other people, so it’s not worth it.”
On the qualifying format changes:
“I like new regulations, it’s fun to learn – people will make mistakes, which will help us, because we’re not the most competitive car, but there are more important things and other areas in Formula 1 before we start messing with qualifying, which I think has been pretty good. Lately Saturdays have been a real stand-out for the sport, I feel, over the last few years.”
“The progress is massive in that area; that’s something we knew we had to work on. Deployment is not something we could have worked massively on last year with the compressor, but over the winter we’ve been able to, and Honda have done a great job in terms of bringing that to testing.
We’ve had no reliability issues with it at all, and it’s a big difference. On some circuits, in the race, we were losing 6/10ths last year every lap because we didn’t have deployment. Now the systems working well, and from here on, it’s marginal gains compared to our competitors. It’s a good step forward and a necessary step forward.
In qualifying there were one or two tenths (difference), because we couldn’t deploy, even through a quali lap, for the whole lap, and now we can easily. It’s a good amount, but there’s still a lot more we need to do to be competitive in every area.”
On tyre selection – an advantage due to Jenson’s smooth driving?:
“Possibly – everyone is really struggling here to understand the tyres, because they are graining so quickly, even the medium tyre here, is working well, which is something that never happened in winter testing before, but the degradation is massive.
The idea behind the tyre was to have this “cliff” with the harder compound underneath the top compound, but I don’t think anyone’s ever got to there, because the degradation’s been so bad. On my soft tyres, I had graining on all four tyres, so it’s making it tricky, and to be fair you can’t drive around it.
It’s not something that you can, which is a shame, because that’s a part of the sport that I really enjoy. It’s going to be very difficult to make a difference this year. We do get different tyre choices, but I think with every team up and down the pit lane they are pretty much going to pick the same tyre – even if they don’t for the first couple of races, they will for the later races.
We talk about (the tyre decision) as a team over the race weekend. It’s great to have a teammate that you trust in his opinion, and know that he’s going to do a good job on a set of tyres. Maybe I don’t need to run that set of tyres, and we have a lot more information from both drivers.”
On the tyre selections already made 6 weeks before the first race – the right choice?:
“Wouldn’t have a clue! Nothing’s changed really. The qualifying changed a bit, but I don’t think that changes your choice on tyres. If somebody does bring a different tyre to Australia, and we realise that we’ve made a mistake, we can’t change that. It would have been fine if we could have chosen on the weekend, to change tyres, but that’s not the case.”
On rumblings that the Honda engine is bigger:
“It’s not bigger, it’s still tiny, and so the body work is still very tight. There’s no knock-on effects with this power unit, which is good. There’s a lot of work, but it’s not because the bodywork is different in a negative way.
We have some parts coming later this week, and hopefully they are going to put us in the right place, and a bit more competitive and more confident in the balance of the car. When a driver is confident in the car, you gain more time than you would expect from new parts.”