Jenson Button may have been unable to deny Red Bull Racing another race win at the Brazilian Grand Prix, but was pleased to secure another podium finish in what he later claimed had been a 'positive' campaign.
The Briton had led the opposition to RBR in qualifying, initially believing that he had done enough to start on the front row before being pushed back to third by Mark Webber, but had no answer for either the Australian or team-mate Sebastian Vettel once the 71-lap race got underway at Interlagos. Indeed, the McLaren man found himself pushed back to fourth place after Fernando Alonso pulled off an inspired move at turn five on the eleventh lap, and struggled to keep pace with the Spaniard as he battled excessive tyre wear.
“I couldn't really get the soft tyre working around here – we had massive degradation on each set – and that prompted the decision to run two sets of Primes in my final two stints," he said of the move to harder Pirelli at his second pit-stop, "My pace on the Prime was great – and using two sets really meant I could find a good balance and work out where the grip was."
Button had earlier reported that his car responded better on the harder of the two tyre options on offer, and his pace improved as the race wore on. While many believed that two stops provided the ultimate race strategy, and saw Button's early switch to the Primes as an indication that he would try to follow it, the McLaren's appetite for its rubber meant that the 2009 world champion still had to make a third stop. But that only provided him with the ammunition to hunt Alonso down and reclaim the final podium spot.
“The Prime was working really well and that helped me chase Fernando down in the final stint - and pass him out of turn three," Button confirmed, "Ideally, I wanted to get him into turn one, because it's more fun to pass someone without using DRS, but I set him up and got him out of turn three after getting a good run along the straight."
Indeed, the Briton insisted that he had earlier been wrong-footed by the remains of a clash between Bruno Senna and Michael Schumacher when battling with Alonso, allowing the Spaniard to pull off his 'around the outside' move at turn five.
“It was disappointing to be passed by Fernando," he conceded, "Coming out of turn five, I saw lots of debris on the circuit, and didn't know what it was. I didn't want to drive over it, and I couldn't pull to the left because Fernando was there, so I had to back out of it and fall behind.. It was a pretty easy move for Fernando to make after that."
With Vettel already confirmed as champion, repassing Alonso had little effect on his own championship position - although it did allow friend and rival Mark Webber to leap-frog the Spaniard in the final standings - but Button was able to reflect on a year where he not only got everything out of a McLaren package that took time to evolve into a racewinner, but also finished ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
“We gave it everything today, and a podium is a great way to end the year," the championship runner-up confirmed, "I've had twelve podiums from this season's 19 grands prix – and I didn't finish two of them due to reliability issues. All in all, it's been a good, consistent season for us. I want to say a big thank-you to the whole team – we've really grown together this year. I really feel like I'm part of the family now: there's an awful lot of passion in our organisation, and I'm proud to be part of it.
“There are a lot of positives to take away from this year. We'll have a strong winter and come out fighting from the first race. We've just got to start the season a bit more strongly, that's all, and that's what we'll be aiming to do. We want to make it hard for Red Bull in 2012."