Jenson Button has admitted that, if there is any on-track fall-out from the Red Bull team orders row, it is unlikely to help his cause too much in the coming races.
The Briton, who made his views on the 'Multi21' saga – and Vettel's reaction to it early in the Chinese Grand Prix weekend – quite clear in the build-up to this weekend's race [ see separate story
], conceded that his McLaren team was too far adrift of the likely pacesetters to gain anything other than a few extra points should the two Red Bulls get together on Sunday.
“It is interesting to witness what is going on there, but we are not in that battle at the moment,” he told the official F1 website following the opening day of practice in Shanghai, “I don't think that it is fully settled between Seb and Mark right now, but that's my personal opinion.”
Button's comments on Vettel also touched on the whole subject of team orders, and he admits that he is happy with McLaren's arrangement whereby its drivers are allowed to fight with each other – as he and former team-mate Lewis Hamilton showed throughout the three-year stint together at the Woking squad.
“I know where I stand - we don't have team orders,” he confirmed, “I've always had a good time with my team-mates - especially with Lewis over the last couple of years - and that's the way it should be.
“But, yes, it's a tricky matter. We all know that we should have a fair race, that we can do our own race, but we are also racing for a team and, with the way the tyres are working now, it is a great excuse [to use team orders]. I have enjoyed working with the tyres so far this year [but], of course, there is a lot of degradation with the tyres and, if you have two guys at the front who are fighting it out, it's possible that you lose the win. I'm guessing this was the reason for both [Red Bull and Mercedes].”
Button's admission that McLaren will not be in the fight for victory again this weekend comes despite a three-week break between races in which the Woking team has been working hard to overcome the early deficiencies apparent in its MP4-28.
“During the first two races, we were pretty happy with the performance of the car, especially in Melbourne - and temporarily also in Malaysia - although it is clear that we are still not quick enough,” he confirmed, “These three weeks since Malaysia have really been good for us to analyse the data that we have collected in the first two races. We are here with a few new parts that hopefully will help us, not only here but also for the development in the future. Looking back to Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur, we've been three to four tenths off the quick cars, and I am pretty sure that we can pull that back in a few races.”