McLaren unveiled its 2010 challenger, the MP4-25, with high hopes that it will be the car to beat this year. The team will have a star driver lineup in Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton to tackle the challenge. Here's what the new driving duo had to say during the launch of the new car.
Q. Jenson, looking forward to the season?
Jenson Button: It's been a very busy January to make sure that I really feel a part of this team. Moving to a new team is always difficult and it's a big change and we struggle with change a little bit. But they really have welcomed me and it's been a really good atmosphere. It's nice to finally see the car as one whole piece.
I'm looking forward to the season. We don't want to get too carried away yet. We have a lot of testing in front of us, a lot of hard work before we get to the first race. I'm excited, the most excited I've ever been coming into a season. It's a massive challenge for me and one I'm really looking forward to.
Q. Lewis, you've often said Michael Schumacher is the one man you would have liked to race again. Do you think Michael is going to be the man to beat for you this season?
LH: I don't think I've ever actually said it – I think if you read the reports I said I always wanted to race Ayrton. While growing up and watching F1, I was finally there and thinking I would have a chance to race Michael but he left. I did get the chance to be on the same track as him on a couple of days, which was such a pleasure to see, the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher pulling out of the pits ahead of me. It was pretty awesome.
Now to be on the same grid as him, see him and the mirrors or in front, it's going to be very special. For me it is going to be a great experience.
Q. How difficult will it be for either of you going up against a one man team like everybody is expecting Mercedes to be this year?
JB: I am hoping that is not the case and I am sure Nico or Michael are hoping that it is not the case, if you are talking about that team. Formula 1 is about a team effort and you need both drivers to work together to improve the car. If you do it on your own it's not going to work. I don't think any drivers on this grid would choose a number two role. I can't see it happening and I don't think it will be the case this year.
Q. Jenson, how do you think your rivalry with Lewis will affect your work?
JB: For us, as I keep saying, it is so important for us to be working together as a team or you won't get a British World Champion at the end of the year. For us to work as a team is key working together and learning from each other. We have so much experience of working in F1, positives and negatives, we've both been in different situations.
You see at the end of the year what happens, and who did a better job after those 19 races. There is no use thinking that far into the future, it will be a big mistake, you have to think of now and how we make this car as quick as we can.
LH: I don't think any of you should forget he is the World Champion and that he's been welcomed into this team. I wouldn't believe everything you read.
Q. Lewis, do you regret the loss of KERS this season?
LH: No, not really. It doesn't bother me having it or not. It could be nicer to not have it, because the car will be a lot nicer to drive.
JB: For me, driving without KERS in 2009 was frustrating, because you had to change strategy to whatever these guys would do. And if they were starting just behind you at the first corner you were not going to come first. I am happy that it is equal across the field and that is important, if everyone has got KERS it is a great system and the reason behind having the system – but not if it's just a few teams.
Q. Jenson, do you believe Mercedes will be stronger this year?
JB: First of all, I do think they will be strong in 2010. They were World Champions and we were World Champions together in 2009, I don't think they will be at the back of the field, whether it is as competitive or more competitive, nobody knows who will be at the front. They will be there or thereabouts. For me I had a great relationship with the team and for me it was the decision to move teams because I wanted a new challenge.
When you win the championship, you have achieved your dream and your initial goal, and after that I was thinking where do I go from here? The decision was to move to McLaren, and take up this new challenge. It has really spurred me on, I go into this season so much more excited than any other season I've been in Formula 1.
I've become a much stronger person and stronger driver with what happened last year. I'm working with the team already. There are some areas that I've never really worked on before. When we get to the first race I'm gonna make sure I'm 100 percent ready. I don't want any excuses. The first race in Bahrain is a race I'm looking to be competitive in.Q. At the end of last season Heikki Kovalainen said he was a little bit upset because he was always a couple of places behind in terms of car development. Lewis has been here four years, Jenson you are the reigning World Champion, who's got first dibs on car development?
LH: I need to correct you there, because that was never the case, bar one race where the guys in the factory worked for 36 hours to get some of the components to the racetrack and, unfortunately, they were unable to get two. At the race weekend they put it on my car, but at the time I was number one and from one race to another that isn't the case.
Jenson is number one this year and surely he will get it the first time and the second time I'll get it. But at the end of the day they are trying to do their best to make sure we both have the same components. It only ever happened once, so I don't know where the rest of that came from.
Q. What do you think about starting with a much heavier fuel load this year?
JB: It is something we need to test. We know it's going to be heavy and that it will be harder to stop the car, but that's why we are testing. Testing is going to be very, very important for the start of the year. It's not just the narrow front tire, which obviously hurts your front grip, we also have the heavy fuel load and that is something we are going to be doing a lot of testing with.
150-160 kilograms is massive compared to what we're used to, which is below 100kg every year I've raced. It's a new experience, it is something we have been working on even in the simulator but we will be working on it a lot during the next month.
Q. Is there a particular circuit that you are looking forward to this year?
LH: I'm looking forward to seeing what Korea is like, because it's a new circuit. I love all the races, personally.
JB: There are a couple of circuits that we already know have a few changes. Silverstone's going to be a bit different – I'm not sure how different. Bahrain has a new little section which will hopefully make the racing even better there, so there are a few new things to learn. It seems like every year there is a new circuit, which is good, it mixes it up a little bit.
Q. Have you tried the new car in the simulator, and what's it like?
LH: We're in there all the time, pushing as hard as we can to learn the car. It feels OK in there but we don't know what these tires are going to be like, so we don't actually have the information. We have taken as good a guess as we can as to how the tires behave, but when we get to the first test we'll find out for sure, take that information back, and put it in the simulator.
Q. Will this be a more exciting season of F1, and do you think it could be the most competitive ever?
JB: I think it has been a while since we have had four World Champions racing, and there are lots of very talented people in Formula 1 at the moment, a lot of new teams coming in, so it's a very exciting season. I hope we all see it as that; hopefully, we all see it as possibly the most exciting Formula 1 season we've ever seen. Hopefully, we're going to have a big fan base this year, because we're going to put on a good show.
Q. You've said going up against Lewis is a challenge, and many people have been skeptical about your chances. How do you feel about that, and what effect do you think the regulation changes will have on your battle?
JB: When I made the move I didn't think about the regulation changes, I thought about the new challenge, something that is exciting, you should always be looking for new challenges in your life. When I achieved the World Championship last year I felt that moving to a new team, one that had so much experience in Formula 1, and with Lewis being here and having won a World Championship, I thought it was the best place to be for this season.
Nobody knows who will come out on top in any team, that is why we are going racing – to fight it out. After 19 races we will see who has done the best job. For now we've got to work together and we will help build this team around us and hopefully improve this car throughout the season better than anyone else. That is our aim at the moment.
Q. People are excited about the Anglo-German battle between McLaren and Mercedes GP, what are your thoughts on it?
LH: I don't think it is the way we look at it and not the way our team looks at it. We have partners and, in our team, we have people from over 25 different nationalities, so it's very much an international team. Obviously it's great to have two Brits in here, but we all work together to put this car together and put this team together. We are racing internationally, so I don't see it as a nationality sport, it is an international sport. I don't agree with everything that has been said but for sure we will do the best job that we can.
Q. Lewis, you had a difficult season in the team in 2007 and Kimi Raikkonen was able to beat you and Alonso to the title. What can you do differently to avoid a repeat of that situation this year?
LH: All I can say is I think we can work together more. In 2007 perhaps in some cases we didn't work together well enough and we didn't work together for the team. I think we both understand we need to work together to push the team forward, while we want to beat each other, we want to get to the end of the year having won the Constructors' Championship and one of us having won the drivers' championship. I think we both understand that.
Q. Jenson, do you have anything left to prove?
JB: I think winning the World Championship and being the best in the world in that season is what we are all here to do. When you're 8 years old and you are looking at Formula 1 drivers and one becomes World Champion, that is what you want to achieve – you think , "I want to become World Champion."
That is exactly what I have achieved in 2009. This year, as I said, I've looked for another challenge and that is exactly what I have on my hands. I come into the season excited about the new season but not looking to prove anything to anyone. I don't need to do that. I don't need to prove anything to myself.
I am pretty happy with where I am in my life right now. I am in the best position I possibly could be. I've got the experience of winning the World Championship in 2009 which boosts your confidence, I've gained a lot of experience, and as a person I've become a lot more confident than last season. Coming into this year I am in the best position I possibly could be.