Jenson Button has admitted that he has the cautionary lesson learned by compatriot Lewis Hamilton two years ago firmly in his mind as he approaches the final four grands prix of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship campaign – aware that he is in 'a tricky position', in wanting to win but needing to finish.
The Brawn GP star arrives in Singapore this weekend for the top flight's second-ever floodlit event holding a seemingly comfortable 14-point advantage over team-mate Rubens Barrichello in the title standings, but that margin has been eroded in recent races.
The Brazilian has five times out-qualified the world championship pace-setter in the last six outings and invariably out-raced him – triumphing twice in the space of three grands prix – to take twelve points out of that lead and ramp up the pressure on Button, who has ascended the podium only once since his last victory in Istanbul back in early June.
Though a close runner-up spot to Barrichello in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza just under a fortnight ago hinted that Button has finally got his faltering challenge for glory back on-track again following a mid-season blip, the 29-year-old has acknowledged that he is now stuck between a rock and a hard place in some respects, wanting to continue to race aggressively but equally very mindful of the fact that he needs to see the chequered flag.
“It's a great position to be in, but it's also a tricky one,” the seven-time grand prix-winner is quoted as having said by The Associated Press
. “As a driver, your instinct is to win, but I also have to think that all I have to do is finish [immediately] behind my team-mate in each race.
“You have to go all-out [and] be aggressive, but it's always in the back of the mind to finish, be consistent. Lewis had a 17-point lead with two races to go and lost it by a point, so there is a long way to go.”
Red Bull Racing's slump of late has effectively turned the championship tussle into a two-horse race – barring any disasters for Brawn – and whilst the tight, twisty confines of Singapore's Marina Bay street circuit will likely negate any power benefit afforded by the Brackley-based outfit's Mercedes-Benz powerplants, the expected warm temperatures should aid the team to overcome its season-long bugbear with the BGP 001, that of generating heat into the tyres sufficiently quickly to find the necessary grip.
In Monaco, Brawn began the race with both cars on Bridgestone's super-soft rubber and a heavy fuel load, meaning that when the tyres did begin to go off, there was simply no way past for their pursuers due to the circuit's tortuous, narrow nature – and a similar approach from the front of the grid in Singapore could just pay dividends.
“We've learned a few things over the last few races,” Button contended. “When the temperature is good, our consistency is good and our lap times are good.”