Reigning F1 World Champion Jenson Button has again expressed his concerns regarding the later start time of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, pointing out that 'it can be dangerous if you've got the sun in your eyes and you can't see where you're going'.
The race around Albert Park was moved back last year from a daytime event to one ending as the sun goes down, with a 5pm local start time meaning theoretically the chequered flag may not appear until as late as 7pm. The aim behind the shift in schedule was to attract a greater share of global television audiences as the grand prix is now broadcast live at a more sociable and amenable hour in Europe, where the sport's majority fan base lies.
The setting sun, however, already provoked some controversy in 2009 with drivers complaining of a reduction in visibility towards the end of the race – and those fears refuse to go away twelve months on.
“It sounds petty, but it's not,” Button told Reuters
. “It can be dangerous if you've got the sun in your eyes and you can't see where you're going – but I'd rather be racing in the day, even a twilight race for me, than the night-time. Out in front is probably not such a bad place to be [as the sun sets], so hopefully we can put ourselves in the same place and won't have to worry.”
'The same place' alludes back to the McLaren-Mercedes star's position this time last year, when he dominated proceedings Down Under to kick-start a successful challenge for world championship glory with Brawn GP. Though a low-key seventh place in the 2010 curtain-raiser in Bahrain earlier this month did not get the defence of that crown off to the most seamless of starts, Button is confident of being closer to the sharp end in Melbourne – even if the 30-year-old expects the Sakhir pace-setters to once again demonstrate impressive form.
“I think Red Bull are very strong, I think the Ferraris are very strong, and then it's probably us,” the seven-time grand prix-winner opined, “but I'm hoping with the circuit change and a few little updates we'll be closer to them and maybe challenging them here.
“The first race for us was difficult; I don't think the car suited Bahrain too well. I think it will suit this circuit better. It's a lower downforce circuit, so we have to wait and see. A podium would be fantastic here – I think that has to be the aim. I think it's a possibility, and you've got to set your sights pretty high.”
Those sentiments are broadly corroborated by Button's team-mate, compatriot and title-winning predecessor Lewis Hamilton, who has already tasted podium champagne this season courtesy of a gritty and gutsy drive to third position under the desert sun a week-and-a-half ago – and the Stevenage-born ace is now aiming to go a couple of steps higher still second time out in 2010.
“The Albert Park circuit should work to the strengths of our car,” the 25-year-old underlined. “We feel stronger coming into this race than we did going into Bahrain. Hopefully, both Jenson and myself can score some more points and we think we'll have a chance of winning this weekend – we've learned a lot from the first race and we can bring that here to Melbourne. It would be great to get that edge.
“The racing in Melbourne is always great – and it should be better here than it was in the opening round. It's an extremely special circuit, unique. I love street circuits, it's a great place to race at and the fans are fantastic.”