World Champion Jenson Button says he has been surprised by how close the fight at the top of standings is this year. And the McLaren driver reckons consistency will still be key to winning the title, despite the introduction of a new points system that is supposed to reward victories.
"It's still really close at the top, which is quite surprising in some ways," Button told his official website on Thursday. "I don't think I was the only one who thought that the new points system would reward the fastest drivers more than those who are simply more consistent. But we've seen in the first three races that consistency still counts for a lot. And, I'm told that the championship order at the front would still be unchanged if we were using last year's scoring system, which is interesting.
"I still think it will take a few more races for us to get a better understanding of the intricacies of the points system, but I still think that consistent finishes will be as important."
Ferrari's Felipe Massa is leading the title race after three races, the Brazilian having scored 39 points but no victories. Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, winners in Bahrain and Malaysia, respectively, have 37 points, with Button, winner in Australia, at 35. Button admits he has been delighted with his start to the season, and reckons there is still a lot more potential to be extracted from his car.
"The most satisfying thing about the opening three races is the belief that we have a fantastic car beneath us," he said. "We've said all along that the MP4-25 is quite a departure from last year's car, and even though I never drove the 2009 car, I know that we've gone all out to develop a car that's more revolution than evolution. And, as a result, we're still working to fully understand the car and how we can bring more performance to it. I think the potential to develop this car is huge, and I know that that's something we are working flat-out to capitalize on.
"I think we have a very, very strong foundation, but I'm most excited about what will be coming in three, six or 10 races – that's what will define where we finish the end of the year."
The Briton reckons McLaren should be strong again in next week's race in China. "I think that this two-week break will be very useful for all the teams. I think we saw in Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia that all the teams had a few bugs in the system – and you have to expect that after three pretty much non-stop races halfway around the world. For China, I think we'll see the top teams raise their game. I don't think there's any room for under-performance any more. Personally, I am looking forward to a problem-free weekend – I want to qualify well and have a straightforward race, something I didn't manage in either Bahrain or Malaysia.
"Also, I'm really interested in seeing exactly what our car can achieve on a dry track starting from the front. Malaysia was a little bit of a mixed opportunity for us, but I have every belief that we'll be just as strong, if not stronger in China next weekend."