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Jumat, 11 September 2009

Button 'looking forward' as title fight builds


Jenson Button has insisted that he is not dwelling on what might have been after dominating the first half of the 2009 Formula One season, instead focusing on the final five races as he struggles to get his Brawn entry on the pace to add to his victory tally.

The Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago saw the Briton fail to score for the first time all season, after being caught up in an accident inspired by Renault rookie Romain Grosjean, but knows that, had he not recorded his worst qualifying performance in twelve races, he would not have been in position to be tagged by the Frenchman.

Lining up 14th on the grid at Spa-Francorchamps was symptomatic of Button's - and Brawn's - gradual slide away from the forefront of F1 in recent weeks. Having won six of the opening seven races, he has added just eleven points in the last five as McLaren, Ferrari and, most significantly, Red Bull Racing all took advantage of successful updates to their cars to win races.

Ironically, however, the gap between the championship leader and his pursuers remains exactly the same as it was after the Monaco Grand Prix as no-one appears able to mount a concerted attack on Button's position.

Brawn team-mate Rubens Barrichello finally returned to the top step of the podium in Valencia - a race that should have suited both Brawns with temperatures high enough for them to generate the required grip from their tyres - but saw another potential top three slip through his fingers in Belgium after a return of his starting problems. Red Bull, meanwhile, continues to allow its drivers to fight amongst themselves for a shot at the title, with neither recording a string of good results as Button struggles. Sebastian Vettel posted two DNFs before clawing back some ground with third place at Spa, while Mark Webber has failed to score in each of the last two races, despite making the finish in both.

As a result, Button heads to Monza - where Brawn is not necessarily expecting to return to race-winning form as the KERS cars should have an advantage - with a 16-point cushion, and insists that he is focusing more on getting the most out of his car rather than worrying about those on his tail.

"It is not about me controlling them, it's about me doing the best job I can," Button told the official F1 website, "Instead of looking back, I'm looking forward. I have a 16-point lead, which is a good position to be in as the championship is coming to a close. There are five races still left and it is more about looking forward to every single race."

The Briton is naturally encouraged by his rivals fighting amongst themselves in what has fast become one of the most-closely matched F1 fields for some time.

"It seems to be someone different [on form] every weekend, which is a good thing," Button said, aware now that the likes of Force India could be thrown into the mix, "All kinds of people are taking points from each other.

"Rubens has been doing a good job, but he's been doing a good job all season - the last two races, he's done better than I did. Within Red Bull, they've both been quick at different circuits. I suppose that's always going to be the way when you've got two very competitive drivers. Vettel, you'd say, has had the upper hand in qualifying at most races but, in the races, you'd say that Mark is always strong. If he stays out of trouble, which obviously he didn't do at Spa, he's going to be very strong in the races. It's difficult to know between them.

"Rubens is a hard competitor [but] I know exactly what his equipment is - it's the same as mine. The Red Bull is a car that works on different types of circuits. It should work okay here [at Monza], but the circuit where they should be strongest is in Japan, at Suzuka. But I'm sure they will be working on improving the car for slow speed corners. I'm sure we'll see them competitive."

Denying that his chances could be enhanced by 'strategic decisions' taken within the Brawn team, Button also played down suggestions - both in the paddock and the media - that the stress of not being able to close out the title was affecting him mentally.

"I'm in good shape," he insisted, "I was [thinking about the situation a lot], but I'm not so much thinking of it any more. I've been thinking about this race and to get in the car is the best possible decision I can make, [as well as to] spend a lot of time with my engineers to talk about how to set-up the car. It's just experience of being in such a situation, [and] I've been in this position for months now."

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