Jenson Button: No panic in McLaren camp ahead of Malaysian Grand Prix
Jenson Button says panic has not gripped McLaren following their poor start to the season, but knows they must crack their issues sooner rather than later otherwise their title hopes will be over.
A few days on from an horrendous Australian Grand Prix weekend that showed McLaren to be woefully off the pace, Button is not expecting too much relief from the misery in this weekend’s second race in Malaysia.
The issues with the Woking-based team’s latest car are many and so complex that Button, who trailed home ninth in Melbourne, has no idea when they will be rectified.
The 33-year-old has belief the problems will be solved, but that of course must happen before his title hopes completely evaporate.
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Asked whether there was panic at McLaren, Button said: “I wouldn’t use that word.
“But we’re working bloody hard to get back to the front because this is not where we expected to be. It’s definitely not where we should be.”
As for his title hopes, Button added: “I don’t know. I don’t know what other people are going to do.
“If Kimi (Raikkonen, the race winner in Melbourne) doesn’t finish in the points on Sunday, and if the guy that wins does not finish in the points in the race after that, then there might be an opportunity this year.
“But if Kimi goes and wins the next four races he is going to have a 90-point lead over me, so it’s very tricky.
“The good thing is there are a lot of reasonably competitive teams and who can take points off each other.”
Button has experienced many lows throughout his career before finally enjoying the high of world title glory with Brawn in 2009 and his subsequent move to McLaren.
The weekend in Melbourne marked another low point, but Button knows he was overdue a spell of ill fortune.
“For the last four years I’ve been racing in F1, throughout the year I’ve had good cars and been able to win grands prix,” he said.
“But that can’t always be the case. You are going to have tough times and I’ve experienced enough of them to know that even with a great team it can happen.
“If I was in a smaller team I’d be worried, but because it’s McLaren I know we can develop the car and find one that really works for us.
“I know we’re not in a great position, but I know we can improve.”
For this weekend, however, Button feels his best hope will be if the torrential rain that typically hits Kuala Lumpur late in the afternoon again disrupts proceedings.
That was the case last year when Fernando Alonso triumphed in an uncompetitive Ferrari, while the heavens opened right on cue over the Sepang International Circuit earlier today.
“I’d rather it was wet. The intermediate tyres were very good to us at the last race,” said Button, referring to the wet qualifying session in Melbourne.
“But in a way it hurt us in the race because it meant we got excited about qualifying and went for a better position than P10, which we shouldn’t have done.
“When things go a bit better you think you can achieve more, but that wasn’t the case.
“So I’d rather it was mixed conditions. I feel we have more of a chance to score points.
“When you have a quick car you want it to be dry every day – no wind, calm.
“But when you don’t have such a quick car you want everything thrown at the rest of the field because then you have an opportunity.”
Former McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton is backing his old team to bounce back.
“I am not focusing on them so I don’t really know what needs to be worked on,” said Hamilton, who joined Mercedes over the winter.
“But what I do know is they are a fantastic team which has great facilities and great people working there.
“They have always been very strong at catching up and developing the car and moving forward.
“I feel that this is only a small little blip in their journey this year.
“I’m sure they’ll catch up.”