Jenson Button insists that the continuity of an unchanged driver line-up will be key for McLaren as it looks to reclaim F1 title honours from rivals Red Bull next season.
Sebastian Vettel has all but wrapped up the drivers title for the second successive season heading to Suzuka this weekend, while Red Bull hold a strong lead in the constructors' championship with five rounds still to run.
McLaren has signalled its intentions by re-signing Button to a new 'multi-year' contract [See separate story HERE
] and the Briton admitted that the continuity in place would be key if the Woking-based outfit is to challenge next year.
“I think this is a great opportunity over the next couple of years to really work closely with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes,” he said at Suzuka. “We are so close to fighting with Red Bull, but yet so far. I think it is good to have the continuity going forward for the next couple of years. It is going to help us take the fight to them next season, I hope. That's what we are working towards.
“It's been a good couple of weeks. I have been enjoying racing and it is nice to finally sign on the dotted line and get a deal in place for the near future.”
Button arrives in Japan in a rich vein of form and as the only man who could still prevent Vettel from taking the title – albeit only if he wins all five races remaining and Vettel fails to score a single point.
With that in mind, the Briton said he was hopeful of another strong weekend on a circuit where he is keen to secure his first win.
“I would love to win here,” he said. “It is a circuit along with Spa and Monaco, they mean a lot to all of us. It is such a challenge driving around here for one lap in qualifying, but putting every single lap together is a real challenge and doing it quicker than anybody else is a real challenge. Yes, it would mean a lot to me to win here at Suzuka. That's our aim this weekend. Whether we are quick enough or not we will have to wait and see but we are in the hunt and I am looking forward to a fun weekend. Hopefully, we can get up there.
“I think on occasions we have been on a par with the Red Bull. Sometimes I have felt that maybe we have had a little bit more performance but I don't think we got the best out of what we had. The last race we weren't quick enough to win. Sebastian and Red Bull did a great job. Even if you are a few seconds behind it doesn't mean you had a chance of winning. Here it is a little bit more like Spa. Obviously it is probably higher downforce than around Spa but it is a flowing medium high-speed circuit. Our car worked well in Spa and hopefully it will be the same case here. This circuit is normally reasonably difficult to overtake on but with the goodies that we have, with the Pirelli tyres, with the KERS, the DRS, we should see some really good racing around here.”