Jenson Button has confessed that he 'gave it everything' in his dogged if ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of Sebastian Vettel for Singapore Grand Prix glory today – and his and McLaren-Mercedes' performance has left him with high hopes of being able to mount the top step of the rostrum next time out in Japan.
After qualifying third in the Far-Eastern city-state, Button took advantage of Mark Webber and his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton's squabble at the start to sweep around the outside into second place, and there he would remain throughout, easing away from the pursuing Alonso-Webber-Felipe Massa-Hamilton train early on and settling into no-man's-land ten or more seconds adrift of race leader Vettel.
Having carefully conserved his tyres, in the closing stages, he was then given the green light to push by his team, and he inexorably reduced the deficit to his Red Bull Racing rival, setting a new fastest lap along the way. Come the chequered flag, he was just 1.7 seconds adrift, and with only a couple more laps, the outcome may have been a different one. Either way, it was supremely gutsy and impressive performance – the latest in a line of them.
“I was being told throughout the race to look after the car and the tyres,” the British star reflected. “The only time I was really able to push was in the last twelve laps, when I chased down Seb on the super-soft tyre. I gave it everything – but, in the end, we didn't quite have the pace to make up the gap. Still, I think we had the best possible strategy for both Saturday and Sunday, and I couldn't realistically have asked for a better result this weekend.
“In fact, we didn't make any mistakes and, as a team, I think we did the best possible job with the equipment we had. We need to improve a few things in our package, but I think Suzuka should suit us a little better [than Marina Bay]. I've had a run of podium finishes recently, so I'd really love to finish one step higher at the next race!”
As he bids to tally the most points of anybody over the second half of the F1 2011 campaign, Button's Singapore result has moved the 31-year-old up into second spot in the drivers' title standings – and he is the only contender who can still mathematically deprive Vettel of the crown. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh was full of praise for his charge's gritty, never-say-die effort.
“Jenson drove a truly fabulous race yet again,” enthused the Englishman, “and he bagged 18 valuable world championship points as a result. He controlled his pace faultlessly, looked after his tyres brilliantly and then attacked the Marina Bay circuit with total commitment at the end when aggression rather than circumspection was called for.
“But for a bit of bad luck in the form of a few backmarkers whom he encountered at precisely the inopportune moment, he could well have snatched a truly sensational victory.”