Jenson Button says the race to beat Sebastian Vettel to the World Championship title is over, even if the reigning champion refuses to accept it yet.
Button is now the only driver who can prevent the German from retaining his crown, with Vettel needing just one point from this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix to become the youngest person ever to clinch back-to-back world championships. But Button says that while everyone else knows that Vettel has the world title wrapped up, the Red Bull man is just trying to focus on the weekend in front of him, rather than get caught up in premature celebration.
"I am happy that he is still talking about it being possible for me to win the title!" said Button, who would need to win with Vettel not scoring at Suzuka just to remain in contention beyond the Japanese GP. "He is probably the only person saying so, it is all but over. I think Sebastian probably doesn't want to think about it until after the race, it is a big buzz to cross the finish line and win the championship.
"I am sure it is something he is looking forward to but doesn't want to discuss right now and especially not in front of us now."
Button added that while the championship may be a forlorn hope, he is satisfied with his own performances in 2011 and believes that he is driving better now then when he won the title with Brawn two years ago.
"I thought I had driven pretty well during my championship-winning season... especially the first part," he said. "I am definitely a better driver now with the experience I've been through – good and bad since then.
"It's pretty traumatic when you're fighting for a championship and struggling for pace, but the difficulties I've been through and the confidence of the team I am working with definitely helps my performances."
The Englishman says that confidence, and the knowledge that he is with McLaren for the long term can allow him to help lift the team into title contention next season.
"We are so close to fighting with Red Bull, yet so far, and I think it is good to have the continuity going forward for the next couple of years," he said. "It will help us take the fight to them next year we hope, that is what we are working toward. It has been a good couple of weeks, I've been enjoying racing and it's nice to sign on the dotted line and get a deal in place for the future."
Button hasn't ruled out victory at Suzuka, a track recognized to play to Red Bull's strengths, and believes that McLaren can put up a fight against Vettel and Mark Webber this weekend.
"I would love to win here – this is a circuit along with Spa and Monaco that is such a challenge," he said. "Whether we are quick or not we will have to wait and see, but we are in the hunt and I am looking forward to a fun weekend and hopefully we can get up there.
"I think on occasions we have been on a par with RBR, sometimes I felt maybe we had a little bit more performance but we didn't get the best out of what we had. In the last race we were not quick enough to win, RBR and Seb did a great job.
"Here is like Spa, probably with higher downforce, but it's a flowing medium to high-speed circuit. The car worked well in Spa and hopefully it will be the same case here."