Despite naturally hoping that his own campaign continues in a similar vein to Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, Jenson Button
believes that 2012 could prove to be a classic year for F1 racing.
The Briton started his year in the same way as 2009 and '10, winning the Australian Grand Prix
to put himself in early control of the world championship standings, but quickly acknowledged that, in contrast to the second of those victories, this one was achieved with a McLaren
that appeared to be the best car in the field. Despite starting from second on the grid, Button was leading by the first corner after taking advantage of the wheelspin that affected team-mate Lewis Hamilton's getaway from pole. Once in front, the 2009 world champion was largely untroubled, keeping the field at arms length other than during a late safety car period which allowed reigning world champion Vettel to close in in second place.
"The first few laps, I knew I had to push hard," he explained, "I knew that Lewis would be right on my tail and I obviously had to try to get away because of the DRS after lap two, so that was important. But I think we're all going into a bit of the unknown in the race. The longest run I did was about eight laps on Friday – and obviously the conditions were very different.
"So, going into the race, trying to understand what wing angle to use, tyre pressure and everything was very tricky. I think we got it close, it wasn't quite right but the second and third runs for me were much better. We had more of an understanding of what the car felt like in the first stint and the second and third ones were much stronger. All in all, I'm happy with the car, there were a few areas where I think it could have been a little bit better – but I think we did a pretty damn good job this weekend.
"The biggest worry was the safety car. When you've pulled a ten-second gap, it's a great place to be. You can control it to some extent but, as soon as the safety car comes out, and it's six o'clock in the evening, it's difficult to keep temperature in those tyres - we found that last year and the year before, so that was a big worry for me. We all try to keep as much temperature in the tyres but, when you actually push, it's a very different feeling and it's very easy to lock-up and grab a tyre.
"That didn't happen, I was able to pull a good gap again in order to get out of the DRS zone and then tried to control the pace. Seb put in some pretty quick laps in the end and I had to just put a couple in just to keep the gap, but we did it in the end."
Much has been made of the fact that Kimi Raikkonen's return to F1 takes the tally of champions to six, but Button believes that the general level of competition surpasses that as the focus of interest for 2012.
"We all think this year is a very special year in F1," he claimed, "Last year was also, having five world champions but having six world champions and so many competitive teams – it's good to see F1 is in a great place right now. It's a great sport to be a part of right now."
Admitting that he was 'very excited heading to Malaysia', bur looking forward to celebrating his flying start with the rest of the McLaren
team, Button was quick to pay tribute to the effort put in over the winter to make the MP4-27 the car to beat early on.
"Every win means a lot to you, and for us, as a team, it really shows how important the winter is," he said, "We've had a strong winter – yesterday's qualifying really showed that – so it's nice to come away with a victory [at the] first race of the new season. The guys back at Woking have done an amazing job this winter, [and] this will definitely help them to push harder into the extra hours in the morning when they're making that extra little part.
"I think starting the year strong for this team is really important, and the last two years for us have been tricky coming into the first race. To come away with Lewis' pole yesterday and the victory today puts us in a great position for the next few races. I saw our mechanics this morning, who said 'this curfew's great – it's the first rest we've had since the start of the year', so a big thanks to all of them and everyone at Woking."