Jenson Button has admitted that he has nothing to lose in the five-way F1 championship battle, and will be giving everything to ensure that he remains in the frame for as long as possible.
Despite heading the points race on a couple of occasions this season, notably after two tactical victories in Australia and China early in the year, the reigning world champion has slipped to fourth overall with five races remaining, and now lies 22 points off leader Mark Webber. With 25 points for a win, however, the Briton knows that there is still a lot to play for, and hopes that he can defy predictions tipping Webber's Red Bull team for success in Singapore this weekend in order to close the gap a little more.
"It's a real buzz to be part of the five fighting for the world championship," he told Reuters
, "I haven't seen a season like this since I've been in F1, so it's good to be a part of that.
"Last season, it was a very different situation, because I was leading the championship and the guys behind me had a more competitive car by the end. This year, I'm a lot more relaxed. I am hunting, not being hunted, so I can be more aggressive - and I have
to be more aggressive."
Whether the Singapore street circuit, especially one likely to be affected by rain for the first time on an F1 weekend, is the best place for the normally-smooth Button to turn on the aggression is questionable, but the Briton was suitably encouraged by his opening day performance.
“We got some reasonable running during P2, and the car is working quite well," he reported in McLaren's usual post-session statement, "There are still some improvements we need to make, but I feel comfortable with it. Our long-run pace looks good, but it's so tough around here on high fuel – we've never run this level of fuel around here before - and qualifying tomorrow will be all about finding track space. If you hit traffic, you've still got to keep pushing, especially in Q1, when the circuit will be at its busiest.”
As for the rain, both Friday and Saturday practice sessions have been run in the dry, but with the legacy of earlier downpours still obvious on track.
“We saw today that, after it rains, the track doesn't dry very quickly, and a lot of water comes up through the circuit," Button confirmed, "It's pretty tricky, as it's difficult to see which parts of the track are wet because of the glare. Hopefully, we won't have any more rain this weekend, because wet conditions aren't the nicest to drive in."
McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton shared Button's optimism about the revised McLaren, which features a higher downforce front wing amongst other developments this weekend, and suggested that pre-race tip Red Bull may still be in range.
“We're reasonably close, we're competitive, [and] there's more time for us to find tomorrow, so I'm optimistic," he commented, “In fact, I think we'll be able to compete with the guys who were at the front today. The Red Bulls definitely aren't unbeatable here. Okay, they're very quick in the second and third sectors, so we'll have to work hard to try to make up time there, but I'm pretty confident we can do it.”