Runaway F1 World Championship leader Jenson Button admitted that he was 'massively disappointed' to have suffered his worst qualifying performance of the 2009 campaign to-date ahead of his home grand prix at Silverstone on Sunday – and he suggested that not only will victory now be 'almost impossible', but even getting up on the podium looks to be 'difficult'.
The Brawn GP star has struggled with balance and grip issues and with warming his tyres up to temperature sufficiently quickly in the comparatively cool conditions weekend-long, and the result of an oversteer and understeer-afflicted Q3 was just sixth place, nearly a full second shy of pole position and far from what he had been anticipating as the 29-year-old bids to add the British Grand Prix trophy to his burgeoning silverware collection.
What made matters worse is that Rubens Barrichello in the sister BGP 001 – a man who rates Silverstone as his favourite track on the calendar and has invariably shone there in the past, memorably taking pole, fastest lap and race victory for Ferrari as team-mate to the legendary Michael Schumacher back in 2003 – will line up on the front row alongside Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel, going to show what might have been.
“I think it is almost impossible to win,” Button lamented in an interview with BBC Sport
. “I just haven't had the pace all weekend. I was hoping for something a bit better – being sixth is a lot worse than what I thought it would be, so it's going to be a difficult race on Sunday. We knew as soon as we arrived here that the Red Bulls were very quick, but compared to Rubens, who's in the same car as me, it wasn't quick.
“The problem is we've struggled with tyre temperatures because it is so cold. Our car doesn't work so well at low temperatures, and I really struggled to get the tyres into their working range. We have to hope we can get the tyres to work. In qualifying I struggled massively with low grip, especially in the last complex – we struggled as a team with that, but compared to Rubens, I was losing a lot of time with the rear of the car. It just felt like I was skating around. I don't know why, but it feels like quite a different car to drive than the one I had in Turkey. I struggled massively with understeer in the high-speed corners and then had oversteer at low speed.
“My second lap was a bit quicker – it wasn't a lot quicker; we might have made up one more place – but my engineer said 'in this lap, in this lap', and as soon as someone says that you react to it. I was up on my time a little bit, but it would have only been one position on the grid. I don't know if they wanted to save more fuel for the race or what, but it was an unusual call.
“We've just got to hope that we've got the right amount of fuel on-board the car compared to the guys in front and that we can have a good race. It is good [that] we are on the front row as a team and Rubens is very quick here – he always has been – but [its'] disappointing for me back in sixth. In fact, I would be massively disappointed in qualifying sixth if it was anywhere around the world at the moment, not just here.”
Having triumphed in six of the opening seven races of the season to-date to build up a commanding 26-point advantage over nearest pursuer Barrichello in the title chase – and 32 ahead of Vettel – Button is enjoying an utterly dominant vein of form, but that peerless run looks set to come to a shuddering halt this weekend, cruelly in front of his thousands of partisan supporters, with numbers expected to hit the 200,000 mark over the course of the three days. The Frome-born ace warned them not to raise their expectations too high.
“I am sure they would love me to win tomorrow,” he mused, “but that's going to be pretty difficult. I think a podium is also difficult. Whilst qualifying in sixth is by no means a bad result, of course I'm hugely disappointed not to be starting my home grand prix from further up the grid.