Jenson Button does not expect Sebastian Vettel to change his approach to the four remaining races in the 2011 F1 season just because he has clinched this year's world title - but vowed to exercise caution when racing the German head-to-head after their contretemps
on the run to turn one at Suzuka last weekend.
The McLaren driver, speaking to journalists on the eve of the second Korean Grand Prix, said that he expected Vettel - who last weekend became the youngest-ever double champion - to continue chasing victory in Yeongam, as well as India, Abu Dhabi and Brazil, especially with the constructors' crown still unresolved. Although Vettel's Red Bull Racing team appears on the brink of repeating as champion constructor, Button insisted that it would not look good for the series' #1 to be backing off.
"He's the world champion and, if he doesn't win, it's a negative," he reasoned, "He's still going to be pushing very hard, and I don't think he'll suddenly drive differently this race just because he's won the championship. He's not going to change the way he goes racing."
That final point will remain with Button should he find himself going wheel-to-wheel with Vettel in the four remaining rounds, aware that the German showed a streak of steel not needed for much of his 2011 campaign. Although he developed a reputation as a 'swerver' when the lights went out in 2009-10 - ironically, often to the detriment of his position at the opening corner - Vettel has largely been able to run unchallenged at the front this season, until Button stuck the nose of his McLaren down the inside of the RB7 in Japan.
The Briton had been the fastest driver around Suzuka throughout practice, and only missed out on pole by 0.009secs, but was taken aback by Vettel's robust defence of the lead in a race where the German only needed a point to be crowned champion - even if Button, his only remaining challenger, won the race. Although the pair did not make contact, Button was forced to take to the grass in avoidance, allowing McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton into second place as he fought for traction.
Despite recovering to win the race, the Briton made his displeasure clear in the ante-room prior to the podium celebration, but appeared to accept Vettel's claim that he had not seen the McLaren - until the BBC
showed him in-car footage of the start.
"Unless he's just resting his head because he knows its going to be a tough race on his neck, or he's looking at Lewis....," Button noted as he watched the German looking intently in his right-hand mirror for much of the run to turn one.
Despite the jibe, however, Button insisted that he would not be looking to redress the balance should the pair meet on track in Korea this weekend.
"It sounded good on TV, [but] I don't think it changes anything," he said of his 'so that's how we're racing now' comment from Japan, "You're still going to be intelligent about the way you go racing and, if you know that he's not going to back out and you're going to push him on the grass, you're not going to do it.
"If I didn't back out [at Suzuka], we would have both ended up in the inside wall. It doesn't matter that your car's only a quarter of the way up the inside, the whole car crashes when you touch!"