Defending world champion Jenson Button has joined team-mate and countryman Lewis Hamilton in throwing down the gauntlet to McLaren-Mercedes' F1 2010 title rivals by asserting that the 'punishing' Suzuka circuit is his kind of track – and remaining adamant that he is still every bit in contention to lift the laurels this year.
In fifth place and at 25 points – or the equivalent of a race victory – adrift of world championship leader Mark Webber, Button is considered to be the least likely of the crown-chasing quintet to emerge on top come season's end, but whilst he has not now triumphed since the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai back in April and has only once ascended the podium in Japan, the British star remains bullish about his prospects in the Land of the Rising Sun.
“I've spent such a large part of my F1 career working in Japan that I almost consider it something of a second home nowadays,” reflected the 30-year-old, alluding to his long period spent with Honda in the top flight. “Tokyo is one of the greatest cities in the world – just an endlessly exciting place to discover and explore – and Suzuka is the perfect venue for the Japanese Grand Prix, one of the world's truly great circuits and a supreme challenge for any racing driver.
“I love the whole Suzuka experience – the fact that it's a real trek to reach from Europe, the amusement park that you walk through to get to the paddock, the incredibly loyal and friendly Japanese fans who cheer me on all weekend and the whole atmosphere, which is invariably extremely tense and frantic, because the race always plays such a decisive role in the outcome of world championships.
“I've had some great results at Suzuka, but I've never won in Japan. I think it's a circuit that suits my style; it's all about scrubbing off as little speed as possible through the corners and maintaining a very smooth and precise rhythm – get it wrong and you're usually scrabbling to regain your momentum for several more corners. It's a punishing place.
“I think the world championship is still completely open. Obviously, there's no room for mistakes, but any of the top five drivers could easily steal the title. It might seem a disadvantage to be behind in the points standings but, make no mistake, I know I can win this championship. I'm still as determined as ever to keep the number one on my car for 2011.”