After his crushing Melbourne victory, Jenson Button is getting used to favourite status after several years as an underdog, but he does not think Brawn GP will run away with this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix. AUTOSPORT heard his thoughts following Friday practice.
Q. Do you believe Brawn GP will be the two best cars again this weekend?
Jenson Button: I think we have got a lot more competition this weekend. We are not there with the balance yet. I have a lot of areas to work on, where I am not happy. That is a good thing because I don't think our pace is as good as we would have hoped.
I think if you look at the cars and their long runs, you can see the Ferrari is very quick and you can see the Red Bull is quick. Especially, the Ferraris are a lot quicker than I expected, so they are very competitive. I am not sure if we can do the same times as them, so we have to wait and see.
Q. Looking back to last weekend, how does it feel to come here as a race winner again?
JB: Yes, it is great. Winning one race is very special, but for me the aim is to do it consistently and to do the same thing this weekend. I think it will be a lot more difficult. Last weekend was great for us, and a very emotional weekend. But already we have to start thinking towards this weekend and doing the same sort of thing again.
Q. Would you have bet your money on winning a grand prix again?
JB: You are not allowed to bet on yourself, and I am not a gambling man. But you stay positive, and it is the only way to be in this sport. And after two bad years we deserve this for all the hard work we have put in. It comes around in the end, and it is great to have a car I feel comfortable in and is quick as well.
Q. Where here do you especially fear the KERS cars?
JB: The straights! That is where they push the button. I think the quickest way around here for the KERS cars is to be using it on all the straights, and not just on one main straight. They are gaining a little bit everywhere, on all the straights.
Q. How about the tyres?
JB: It is an interesting one as they are very different. The harder tyre has a very high temperature working range which you can never get to, because you cannot work it that hard. And the soft tyre is a good tyre here. It has been pretty consistent, we have had a little bit of graining, but that tyre for me has been a bit better. The hard tyre is the one we have had to work hard on to get some reasonable pace.
Q. So who is going to be the race winner here?
JB: If I knew that, it would make life a lot easier. The Ferrari is a lot quicker than what they have been in the past, and they are the people that have been setting the pace today.
Q. Australia was a little bit of a step into the unknown for you and the team, but you come here as world championship leader. Does the mindset of working towards winning feel normal now?
JB: Yes, definitely. As soon as we arrive here, you forget about the last race. The only time you think about is when you are being interviewed or when someone is saying congratulations or well done. We are fully committed on this weekend now. Last weekend was great, we got 18 points as a team and I've got 10 points as a driver, I would like to make it 20, but we need to look to this weekend to see what we can get out of the car.
At the moment we are not in a position that I am happy with, with the car. I think Rubens is the same. There are areas where we really need to improve to be at the front, and you might think it sounds crazy or that I am trying to talk us down - but I think Ferrari is the team to beat if you look at the times at the moment. And that is not just over one lap; it is over the long runs.
So if they are running a reasonably normal fuel load, which I think they probably are, they are very quick. They are going to be the cars that we have to beat.
Q. Do you feel less comfortable at this stage than you did in Melbourne?
JB: Yes. I think our competition is closer, for whatever reason. I don't know if Ferrari had a bad weekend in Melbourne or not, but they are the team that are the most competitive. And Red Bull are a lot closer to us, although I don't know where they stand. I would say Ferrari are the big threat really.
Q. This track has much less slow and medium-fast corners, which seem to be the strong area of your car. Can that be a reason why the picture is different?
JB: There are still some pretty slow corners, and that is where I think we are strong. Mechanically it is a very strong car. There are some very long straights here, and we have a good engine. The Mercedes-Benz engine is very good, and it is probably the best engine out there. But you cannot compete with KERS cars on the straights here.
I was behind [Fernando] Alonso here in practice and he was annihilating me on the straights. So they are gaining a lot on the straights, probably more than they have let on in previous tests and what have you. But that is an area where they are going to be strong. So even if I do qualify in front of them, it is going to be difficult to keep them behind. It is tough when you are racing against KERS cars, and when KERS cars are your main competitors, it is going to be very difficult.
Q. There is a high chance of rain in the race. How much of a worry is it that you haven't had a wet test, and that it didn't rain in P2?
JB: Well, you always want it to be dry when you are at the front. Hopefully it will be wet in in final practice, so hopefully we will get some practice in. Otherwise it is blind going into qualifying. The car I am sure is going to be reasonably competitive in the wet, but understanding what wing angle to run is going to be so important. If you are six turns out of front wing with six degrees, it is massive, and you will never get the car working.
Q. The soft tyre could have been a race decider in Melbourne. Is it the same case here with the harder tyre?
JB: I don't think it is going to be as bad. You are not going to lose three seconds per lap because it doesn't grain, but getting the tyre to work is important. But it is not as bad as what we had in Melbourne. It is not such a risk to stick the option on for the start of the race, whereas it was a real risk in Australia to stick it on in the first stint as you had to pray for a safety car. It is not an issue here, they are closer, but getting it into its working window is very difficult.
After his crushing Melbourne victory, Jenson Button is getting used to favourite status after several years as an underdog, but he does not think Brawn GP will run away with this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix. AUTOSPORT heard his thoughts following Friday practice. Q.