13 October 2013
Japanese Grand Prix: Last-minute changes undo Button's day
Jenson Button admitted that he was to blame for last-minute set-up changes that put him on the back foot in Japan, while for Sergio Perez is was a scrap with Nico Rosberg that left him struggling.
Suzuka is one of Jenson Button's favourite circuits to race at, but chances are that he won't count the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix among his career highlights after the afternoon turned into a hard slog - and he only had himself to blame for it.
"The first two stints of the race were pretty difficult as I had massive understeer," he explained. "That was my fault: on the lap-to-grid, it felt like I had too much front-end, so I took some wing out of the car.
"It was the wrong thing to do," he admitted. "It left me with too much understeer, and I kept locking up the fronts, which destroyed the front tyres."
That wasn't Button's only problem of the day, with the McLaren also losing two positions at the start of the race in the incident-packed first run through the opening corners at Suzuka and immediately dropping out of the top ten.
"Jenson made a good start off the line, but through no fault of his own was then embroiled in a first-corner incident," said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh after the race. "As a result, he also flat-spotted his tyres, which caused a significant vibration that we elected to curtail by bringing him in for his first tyre stop earlier than we otherwise would have done."
All in all, Button's strategy had been thoroughly compromised even before he finished the first lap.
“We were consequently forced to convert his planned two-stop strategy to a three-stopper, which was a pity," added Whitmarsh. "But he drove a truly excellent race thereafter, taking advantage of rubber fresher than that of his rivals in his fourth and final stint to pull off some excellent overtaking manoeuvres.
Button also had the front wing dialled back in for his fourth and final stint, which helped him get back on pace with his rivals. "In the end, the car was really good to drive, especially my final stint on the option tyre which was a lot of fun - especially as I was able to chase down and pass a couple of other cars.
“In the closing laps, I made a great move on Paul around the outside of the chicane. I made the same move on Felipe too, but he forced me over the kerb, so I ended up getting him on the straight," he said, recalling his late passes of Force India's Paul di Resta and Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
"So it was an enjoyable end to the race, but a disappointing beginning," Button summed up after coming home in ninth place.
Meanwhile, Sergio Perez' race was bedevilled with a series of encounters with the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, which started during the the first round of pit stops on lap 12. "It was a very unfortunate afternoon for us," Perez admitted afterwards.
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