Defending world champion Jenson Button has admitted that he has been 'absolutely blown away' by the start he has made to the F1 2010 campaign – and in a warning shot to his rivals, the current world championship leader has revealed that he is still on 'a learning process' at McLaren-Mercedes and as such only going to get even stronger.
Defying most pre-season predictions and confounding his critics, Button has not only out-qualified team-mate and title-winning predecessor Lewis Hamilton three-one, but he has also out-scored his compatriot – who some had claimed would eat him alive for having had the brazen audacity to enter his
team in the misguided belief that he could gain the upper hand – by 60 points to 49 and out-triumphed him two-nil, courtesy of brilliant and bold tactical victories in Australia and China.
That has made the 30-year-old the only double-winner thus far in 2010, and left him with a ten-point advantage in the chase for the crown returning next to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona on 9 May. And few, only a matter of months ago, would have forecast that.
“It has been an absolutely incredible start to the season, just incredible,” Button enthused in an interview on his official website. “To say I'm satisfied would be a massive understatement – I am absolutely blown away by all the events of the last five weeks! Taking the chequered flag in Melbourne is still a pretty unbelievable feeling and to be on top in the world championship is just an amazing place to be – and it feels so good.
“Make no mistake, though – it's been achieved through hard work. We got here because everyone in the McLaren-Mercedes team has been working for this every single day. I first got in the car in February, and it really hasn't stopped since then; whether it's been at the tests, at the races, on the track or off it, we've all been working like crazy to get to the front – and I think our current position in both championships is well-and-truly deserved.
“The two wins have been fantastic, obviously, but sometimes it's the smaller things that really stick with you. I remember going to the McLaren Technology Centre back in January to start the job for the first time, and that moment of getting to know people and seeing how friendly and enthusiastic and fired-up everybody was – that was a really good moment.
“It's been about getting to know the team and of not actually needing to 'fit in', but finding a natural fit through the help of everybody here. That's been incredibly rewarding. Other [highlights have been] perhaps the final test in Barcelona, where we fitted the new parts and realised we had a pretty decent car, and one that I could really enjoy driving – particularly through high-speed corners.
“We've not got everything right, but the fact that we've admitted that and just got on and learned from it has been a very valuable experience. We're not relaxing now – we might have some difficulties getting the people, the cars and the freight home before Barcelona, but that won't stop the efforts we're making to be even more competitive when we return to Europe.”
One of the key's to his Shanghai success, Button points out, was a whistle-stop trip back to the UK to visit the McLaren Technology Centre in the wake of the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, in an effort to improve his comfort in the car and the set-up of the nine-time grand prix-winner's MP4-25. Admitting that he is still not quite there yet, in his current position in the chase for the crown, that has to be something of a cause for concern for the Frome-born ace's rivals.
“We still had to sort of explore quite a bit in practice in China, and we only really got a good handle on the car by the time we got into Q3 on Saturday,” he acknowledged. “I think it's more about the knowledge that we gain, though; each time we run the car we learn something new, and we're able to apply that extra knowledge to each lap that we do. I've said it before – this is still a learning process for me and, hopefully, I can improve all the time.
“What's most important is that we didn't really make any mistakes in China – we didn't really drop the ball – and I know from experience that it's the way you protect yourself from problems over a race weekend that will help you in the championship. You can have a great race one weekend, but if you follow it up with a bad qualifying lap and a bad race, then you're wasting points. We need to look at this championship, make sure that we learn from every lap and try to make fewer mistakes than the rest.”