Jenson Button insists that he remains excited about the final two races of the 2009 F1 World Championship campaign, despite being put under increasing pressure from title challengers Rubens Barrichello and Sebastian Vettel.
The long-time world championship leader saw his advantage cut in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka at the weekend, as Brawn GP team-mate Barrichello finished one place ahead of him in seventh whilst Vettel took to the top step of the podium courtesy of a crushingly dominant display.
Following a disappointing qualifying session made worse by a three-place grid demotion from seventh to tenth for having failed to slow down for yellow flags when Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sébastien Buemi crashed during Q2, the British ace revealed that damage limitation rapidly became his focus – and ending the grand prix holding a 14-point margin over Barrichello in the standings, from that point-of-view it was undeniably mission accomplished.
“[The race] was about picking up points after our eventful qualifying session,” the 29-year-old confessed, “and that's exactly what I did. Starting from tenth on the grid was always going to make for a tough race, but my pace was really good and I was very happy with the performance of the car. I was pulling massive amounts of time out of the guys in front me, but they were on heavier fuel loads which held me up as it's difficult to overtake here.
He added: “I did the best that I could in the car that we had this weekend, and we got the maximum performance out of it with a points-scoring finish. I only lost one point to Rubens, which was my main priority.”
The champion-elect added that he was not too bothered by Vettel and Red Bull Racing's domination at Suzuka, and said he expects it to be a different story in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
“Obviously we lost a few points to Sebastian,” he acknowledged, “but we were expecting them to be strong here. We go to two circuits now which should suit our car, so I'm excited about the end of the season and already looking forward to the next race in Brazil.”
Ross Brawn, Button's team principal, said he was happy with the overall performance of both of his drivers as it brought the constructors' championship to within touching distance for the Brackley-based outfit, which only ten months ago had faced extinction in the wake of Honda's sudden and shock withdrawal from the top flight.
“We recovered well in the race from a problematic qualifying session,” summarised the Englishman, “and both drivers brought home valuable points in the fight for the constructors' championship. Whilst we were aware that this track would favour our competitors, I am pleased with the performance of the team and drivers over the weekend to extract the maximum from the car and add to our championship points tally, leaving us with half a point required to take the constructors' title.”
Like Button, Brawn said he was looking forward to the final two outings and expected his team to do well, adding: “The next two races at Interlagos and Abu Dhabi should suit the characteristics of our car much better, so we can look forward to a very exciting conclusion to the season.”