By Simon Strang
Friday, November 7th 2008, 14:38 GMT
After a torrid season with Honda, Jenson Button is aware that there will be no excuses for the Japanese squad next year, having focuses almost exclusively on next year's car rather on the development of the RA108.
Autosport.com heard from the British driver during the presentation of this year's Race of Champions at Wembley.
Q. You said you've had a disappointing year, do you take part of the blame for that yourself?
JB: No. It's all the car. You put anyone in our car and they are not going to win races. That's the way Formula One is. It is a team sport and you need to have everything and we don't have a competitive car at the moment. I think we concentrated a lot over the winter on the aerodynamics of the car, because we thought that was very weak last year. And we improved that but we sort of didn't work as hard in other areas as maybe we should have.
So yeah it hasn't been a fun car to drive, it has been very difficult to drive. Plus, mid-season we started working on the '09 car, or concentrating on the '09 car, so we didn't improve this year's car as much as the other teams. And the areas that I wanted to improve with the car we didn't do, because we were concentrating on '09.
So I found it difficult to drive personally, and I think certain areas of the car, Rubens's style of driving suits more and you can see that on some of the circuits we go to. Other circuits it's the other way around. So hopefully next season I can have a lot of involvement with the car and it will suit my style. I think going to slick tyres will help a lot as well.
Q. Are you hopeful of being around next season then?
JB: Yes. Nothing is sorted or signed but the team know how I feel and I think I know how the team feels. Hopefully we can sort something out soon.
Q. Is it necessary to have two experienced drivers in the team next year?
JB: Yes, definitely, especially with the new regulations. There are so many changes aerodynamically with the car, and with the KERS also, and the slick tyres, they will need a lot of feedback from us. And having a new boy in the car, I don't feel that you get as much feedback, but it is not my decision.
Q. So there is not much point testing Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi then, is there?
JB: Well, it is interesting for the team and it gives them a chance, which is good for them. But I think it is important to test inexperienced drivers to see how quick they are because nobody really knows. Bruno almost won the GP2 championship, he finished behind Pantano, who has been there for 10 years, but he might be astonishingly quick in an F1 car, we don't know.
Q. From what you are saying it would be better to keep Rubens next year?
JB: I personally like a teammate that is experienced, because he can give good feedback. And next year there is a lot of changes and there is not a lot of testing next year. The test drivers aren't going to be doing much at all. We are very limited on mileage.
Q. Do you think Alonso made the right decision? Should he have come to Honda?
JB: It's a difficult decision for him, isn't it? He has won two races this year with Renault, it's the unknown going to another team, I don't know how good the car is going to be next year, so how is he going to know?
Q. You would have loved the chance to take him on though, wouldn't you?
JB: Yeah it would have been great, I think I would have worked well with Alonso.
Q. It wouldn't have been like it was with Lewis Hamilton then?
JB: I don't know. It's difficult to say I suppose if he was my teammate it might be a different story, but I get on with him very well. But yeah, for him it was probably the best option. It's difficult because there were no seats at Ferrari or McLaren, well there was one at McLaren, but he wants to go to Ferrari obviously. And that's where he thinks he needs to be to win the world championship again, so Renault is the best option for him if Ferrari is not possible.
Q. How important is next year for you, is it make or break?
JB: It's not make or break, but as a team we have no excuses next season. We should be on a level playing field within the teams. There are a few areas where we are probably still not as strong as McLaren and Ferrari, but we are a much stronger team than we used to be. And since Ross has been around, the team has changed a lot for the better. You can't see it on the car because we haven't been working on it so much but I think you'll see it on next year's car. Hopefully we will have a competitive car, but we don't know how quick we are going to be yet.
It's going to be a much better car and in every area we will have improved the car a lot, and I think we will do a very good job with the new aero package. We have had a lot of time to work on this car, a lot longer than Ferrari and McLaren, because they have had to concentrate on '08. That's good for us, because we have been working on the car since mid-2007.
Q. Was the viking funeral your car had at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the best moment of the season for you?
JB: It only took one match as well! Amazing. Last year they taped a lighter in my car. They didn't do it this year, they didn't need to either. It caught fire on its own - but it was a fitting end to a great season.
It caught fire, and then somebody's car rolled back into mine, which rolled back into Lewis's, who was trying to get out of his car. I was thinking: 'Okay' this could be interesting.
Q. Rubens says this is the best he has ever driven this season, would you agree?
JB: He has driven better this year, than at any point since he has been with our team. This is his best season and he says he is driving better now than he ever has done, and I don't think Rubens lies. He tells the truth, which is always good in a teammate, and he has put in some very good performances.
The last three races have been his best. In the race we have been very similar in pace, but in qualifying he has beaten me in the last three races. He has done a good job.
I do think the car suits his style a little bit more, in the way that you get a rolling sensation as you enter the corner. It's something that happens with these tyres and I think it's just accentuated by our car. But I hate that. With the slicks it should be a very different story.