When he first stepped onto the Formula One stage Jenson Button was
immediately tagged a ‘future world champion’, but five years on and the top step
of the podium still eludes him. He is nevertheless considered one of the world’s
best drivers - just one still waiting for the machinery to match his ability.
Button is convinced Honda can deliver that machinery, even if he refuses to make
any rash predictions for this weekend’s Monaco race. We caught up with him to
discuss his season to date…
Q: Now that BAR has transformed into Honda is there greater pressure to be
Jenson Button: There has always been pressure to be successful at this
team. The pressure comes from within the team though, because we all want to
win. It was a fantastic moment when we achieved pole in Australia this year -
Honda's first pole as a works team since 1968 - and for sure the first win of
Honda's third generation is the moment we are all working so hard towards. We
have a fundamentally good car this year, and that is the result of making the
best use of the fantastic resources that we have in the UK and in Japan.
Q: What difference has Rubens Barrichello joining the team made?
JB: Rubens brings a lot of experience from a world championship-winning
team, no question. We work hard together to develop the team and the car. A lot
has been made of Rubens’ difficulties in the first few races but he has been
able to provide us with some new insights and with my experience with the team
already I think we are working well together.
Q: Has the lack of results have been down to anything specific or more a
combination of factors?
JB: As I said I think we have a fundamentally good car, but we haven't got
the results we expect for a number of reasons. Our qualifying pace has been very
good but if you look at Bahrain, the clutch problem on the grid lost us a lot of
time, which made the difference between fourth place and a podium. We did better
in Malaysia and got our first podium of the year, then in Australia we struggled
with our tyre warming problems as a result of the four safety car outings and an
engine failure preventing me from finishing the race. Imola was another tough
race because of the problems in the pits. But we see the curve going up - no
doubt. The first six races have shown that we are in the fight but there is a
lot of work to do to get us to the top step and this is mainly about tackling
the issues which have compromised our race performances. Do I think this team
has what it takes? Absolutely!
Q: Obviously you can’t be satisfied with how things have gone so far, but
Monaco could be a new chapter in the story of the 2006 season. Do you have high
hopes for Monte Carlo?
JB: I'm not going to talk it up too much. I look forward to the race. I
always have. It's such a challenging circuit and there is no room for error. I'm
looking forward to the weekend and hopefully we can get a good result.
Q: In a quiet moment when reflecting on your career, does the thought occur
to you that staying with Renault could have made you world champion?
JB: Yeah it could have, but that didn't happen so it's not really worth
contemplating. Things are always changing in Formula One. Teams are going to
have good years and difficult years. Renault had some very poor years but have
become strong as have McLaren and Ferrari and I think it’s going to be the same
case for us. We are a strong team, and success will come our way - it's just a
matter of time.
Q: After having jumped to second place in the constructors’ championship in
2004, the team have come down to earth with a bump this season. What do you
expect for this year?
JB: We've been disappointed with the race results so far this year for
sure; we hoped to be in a position to win from the first race. Despite what
people say though, we have not recalibrated our expectations and set our targets
much lower. We 'expect' to go to every race to win and, if anything, we are all
much more focused on that target than ever before. We are only six races into
the season. We want to win soon and I believe that is possible, but we don't
have the 'win at all costs' approach that some people say. We are looking at the
big picture and that involves not just winning once but going on to win
Q: In your five years in Formula One racing, you have spent time with three
different teams, one Anglo-German (Williams BMW), one French (Renault) and one
Anglo-Japanese (Honda, formerly BAR). What were the differences in how searched
JB: Fundamentally they all want to win and that's true of any team in F1,
regardless of nationality. However, Honda's commitment to racing has been
constant throughout its history. Racing is in the company's DNA and you can see
that racing spirit throughout every part of its operation. You only have to look
at all its motorsport activities.
Q: You have successfully maintained your market value despite your
infrequent podium appearances of late. Is this because you are the most visible
British driver? What is the secret of your success?
JB: I think I'm doing a very good job and playing my part in this team's
push for victory. To win, everything has to come together at the right time -
this is a team sport. Fundamentally I am working as hard as I possibly can - in
testing, in the races and in ensuring that I am in the peak of physical and
mental condition to play my part.
Q: Your ‘man about town’ image was arguably a perfect platform for the
team's title sponsor. Must we expect a change in the future?
JB: The racing calendar and related activities like testing and marketing
work mean that there is hardly any time for me to be the party animal I am often
portrayed as! The only image I work hard at cultivating is the real me and
that's someone who spends pretty much every waking moment focusing on what it
takes to win races.