Jenson Button confessed to his frustrations at getting stuck behind Ferrari rival Felipe Massa during the early stages of today's F1 2011 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, with the pair's feisty and energetic scrap ultimately earning the McLaren-Mercedes star a drive-through penalty and denying him the possibility of fighting for a podium finish.
Button triumphed around the streets of Albert Park in 2009 – en route
to the drivers' crown – and then again last year, and if a hat-trick this weekend was always going to be unlikely given the sheer dominance of Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel, then the Briton was nonetheless undeniably in the reckoning for one of the other available rostrum spots after qualifying a strong fourth.
Unfortunately, a poor opening lap saw him cede positions to both Vitaly Petrov and the fast-starting Massa, and there Button's troubles began...
“I got an okay start, but I was surprised to see Vitaly up the inside – he got a very good start and forced me wide,” recalled the 31-year-old. “Then I got stuck behind Massa, because I got a very poor exit out of Turn One, and that was the worst move of my race, because he was so slow and he's the most difficult person to overtake. He blocked very well, but he just slowed us both down massively.
“I tried to overtake him around the outside of Turn Eleven. I was in front before we turned in, but he went really deep into the corner and pushed me wide so that I couldn't take my normal line, so I cut the corner and then I didn't know what to do.
“The team said 'stay where you are', which is the correct thing to do, and we would see what the stewards said, but as soon as Ferrari saw it happen they pitted Massa, and when that happens, you get a drive-through. I don't know if that was done on purpose or not, but I got the drive-through and then I had to fight my way through. That was quite fun, but being that far back was very frustrating, because our pace was much better than that.
“I just wish I could have got the best out of it today, but at least Lewis [Hamilton – team-mate] did a good job and we should be very happy with our pace. We'll have upgrades for the next race, but the car is still very new and there are plenty of changes we can make to hone the package. We should be very happy with this weekend; I just wish I could have come away with more points...”
“Jenson drove hard and well all afternoon, but was thwarted by two separate pieces of bad luck,” added McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh. “He was unlucky at the start when he got bogged down at the first corner and lost a few places, but no complaints – that's what motor racing's like, you get pushed back.
“I'd say Felipe was reasonably spirited in his defence, and I think Jenson felt he had no alternative other than to leave the track when he was trying to get past him. At that point we asked the FIA, 'what do you want to do?' We got no advice, and we then were told we had a stewards' enquiry. After that he received a drive-through penalty for his passing manoeuvre on Felipe, even though he felt he'd been forced off the road by Felipe as he made good his pass.