Current Formula 1 World Championship leader Jenson Button has insisted the key to Brawn GP's continued dominance of the 2009 title fight is remaining focussed, arguing that 'as soon as you start relaxing, it all goes to pot'.
Ahead of this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix – the seventh round of the campaign – Button holds a comfortable 16-point lead in the drivers' standings over team-mate Rubens Barrichello, and a handy 28-point margin over the first of the non-Brawn challengers, Red Bull Racing rival and Istanbul pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel. For a team that looked likely to face extinction just weeks prior to the start of the season following Honda's sudden and shock withdrawal last December, that's not bad going at all.
“At the end of last year we didn't know what to expect,” the 29-year-old candidly confessed. “When we realised in March that we were racing, we were very happy. We knew that we had a competitive car, but you never know how competitive. The bit that amazes me is not the speed of the car – the speed of the car is very impressive – but it's how the team haven't put a foot wrong under pressure whereas maybe other teams have, and that's the reason why we've been so competitive and so consistent I think. We've got to stay in that mindset, stay positive and focused. As soon as you start relaxing, it all goes to pot, so you've got to stay focussed and that's exactly what we're trying to do.”
Button will line up in second place on the starting grid in Istanbul alongside Vettel – when this time twelve months ago the pair shared the seventh row – and twice in four previous appearances in the Turkish Grand Prix has finished inside the top five, though never up on the podium. This time around, he has his sights set firmly on the top step – and his sixth victory from seven races.
“Friday was a tough day for everyone I think,” the British star acknowledged. “It was so windy and I just could not get a balance to the car in those conditions. I enjoy this circuit and that's why I found it tough when we arrived here and did not have a good balance. When one person in the team has got a good car and is doing good lap times it is okay as you sort of know the time is in the car and you have just got to find it, but neither Rubens nor myself had the best day and we were not really sure where the pace was.
“With some changes to the set-up and also the wind calming down on Saturday, though, the car just seemed to be much better. I got more to grips with the car and we worked all through the day. After practice in the morning it was quite difficult to choose which tyres to run in qualifying. I think we made the right choice for myself. On the 'prime' I didn't really have a very good feeling; it was very twitchy and not what I like. The 'option' tyre would get oversteer but it was sort of more gradual, a bit more of a rolling feeling and I preferred that, so that is the tyre we went with. We did the right thing staying with it in Q3 and not chopping and changing, and I could just get on with my work and do the best I could.
“It is nice to be on front row – it is a pity we could not get pole, but you are always going to say that when you are starting P2 – but I am very happy to be where I am and looking forward to the race. Obviously well done to Sebastian for pipping us, and it is great that we have got a lot of competition out there. It is not just the Red Bulls and the Brawns, but also the Ferraris are quick as well and the Toyotas, so it is good.”
Indeed, Button knows he is likely to face a stern challenge from both Red Bulls on race day, with Mark Webber on a relatively heavy fuel load well-placed in fourth too – and he remained wary of the Ferrari threat, despite the Scuderia
having somewhat underperformed in qualifying with just sixth and seventh for Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa respectively.
“[Ferrari] weren't as quick in Q1 and Q2 as we expected,” the Frome-born ace contended, “so I don't think it's just fuel load, personally, but on Saturday morning they were massively quick. I was surprised at Massa's times, but it seems strange that they are not there now. Maybe their car is not working so much in qualifying form.
“It has been [Brawn vs Red Bull] in most races except for Monaco, [and] in the races before that it was the same. I think these guys are doing a very good job and we are also. It is down to getting the best out of the equipment and getting the best team effort. That is what will win the race, and we have got to wait and see who that is.
“I am looking forward to it. I think this is a circuit where you can have a lot of fun and you can overtake, and it should be a good race to watch hopefully. We all love statistics, and every pole position man here has won. We are going to try and change that.”