Jenson Button has warned his rivals not to count him out of contention for victory in the opening round of the new F1 season in Australia next weekend.
The Briton has won at Albert Park for the last two seasons, with his victory in a dramatic rain affected race last year being his maiden success in McLaren colours.
McLaren's performance during pre-season testing has done little to suggest that the Briton will be able to make it three wins in a row, Button said he wasn't ruling out the possibility of ending the weekend on top of the podium.
“Albert Park has been good to me,” he said. “I've won there for the past two seasons; it's a great circuit for racing, it always seems to create unpredictable races and, perhaps because it's habitually at the start of the season when a precise pecking order has yet to be established, we often see fast cars running out of sequence – and the excitement that that brings. With the added issue of multiple tyre stops, it could be a very exciting and unpredictable race weekend.
“I'm regularly being asked if I can make it three wins in a row this year. On paper that might not look likely, but, seriously, who knows? I most definitely wouldn't rule it out.”
However, Button admitted that the opening round of the new season had been heavily overshadowed by the ongoing crisis in Japan following last week's earthquake, with the 2009 champion having a strong bond with the country following his time with Honda.
Button's girlfriend Jessica Michibata was also in Japan carrying out a modelling shoot in Tokyo when the quake struck.
“In the past, I'd always travelled to Melbourne full of positive energy and enthusiasm,” he said. “But, at the moment, my heart is with the people of Japan as they struggle to come to terms with the scope of the terrible devastation and loss of life wreaked by last week's earthquake and tsunami.
“While the prospect of a Formula 1 race seems to pale in the face of such a disaster, there have been occasions before when the healing power of sport can actually be beneficial; an escape for people. So I go to Melbourne this weekend resolving to not only try my best, but also to salute the brave people, and my many friends, throughout Japan.”