Jenson Button reckons he can still take win the F1 2011 title this year - and that his recent win in Canada 'proves' McLaren can challenge and beat defending champion, Sebastian Vettel.
Button was delighted after coming through to win at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and branded it the 'best victory of his career'. The result moved him up to second in the drivers' standings and while he is 60 points behind Vettel - the equivalent of more than two maximum scores - the Englishman is clearly on the crest of a wave and determined to try and close the gap in Valencia, venue for the European GP next Sunday, the eighth round on the schedule.
“It's been a fantastic week in the aftermath of the Canadian Grand Prix. I had a few days' break immediately after the race, which was perfectly timed as it gave me the opportunity to take in all the positive memories of a crazy weekend, and to reflect on an incredible race,” Button said.
“I wouldn't say that winning in Montreal has given me extra motivation, because I was already totally committed, but I think it will help to sharpen the focus and conviction of everyone in the team.
“We've proved we can challenge and beat Sebastian [Vettel], and we know we can fight for this world championship.
“I'm now looking forward to Valencia. I had a good race there last year and I think the track shares some of the characteristics of Montreal and Monaco, so I'm confident that we'll be competitive again.
“The trick will be to find enough performance in the race to overcome any potential difficulties in qualifying.”
McLaren-Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh meanwhile concurs that qualifying remains an issue, although he is very pleased with the way the Woking-based outfit is developing the MP4-26.
“Jenson's fantastic last-to-first result in Canada last weekend proved beyond doubt that, as a team, we never give up. That victory was a great fillip for the entire organisation and shows that our tireless efforts to bring constant upgrades to the track are really paying off,” Whitmarsh added.
“As a team, it's particularly satisfying that our upgrade 'hit-rate' has been successful and that we've really been able to translate the results we've seen at the factory into concrete performance at the track. Again, that's the result of good teamwork, and is what will successfully carry us through this championship fight.
“We've typically gone well around the Valencia street circuit but we've never won there before. I think we go into the weekend feeling encouraged and motivated by our performance, but still realistic that Red Bull remains the pacesetter – particularly in qualifying.
“We're now into the heart of the season and need to ensure that we're regularly delivering performance to the car. We've shown time and time again that this is one of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' key strengths and I'm confident we can continue to deliver. For Valencia and beyond, our aim is clear: we want to win,” Whitmarsh vowed.