By Jonathan Noble
Jenson Button has had a fairly miserable run of races since his winning streak ended at the Turkish Grand Prix three months ago, but things are looking up in Italy, with the Briton and his Brawn team-mate Rubens Barrichello qualifying on row three with a hefty one stop fuel load.
Most encouragingly for Button, his team seems to have the edge on title rival Red Bull this weekend, although he is not getting over-confident yet, as he told the assembled press at Monza.
Q. Is this the end of the bad times for you?
Jenson Button: Well qualifying went well - that is all I can say really .Today I have been happy with the car and qualifying on low fuel the times were good. Qualifying with a heavy fuel load, the car was working well also. It was a positive day – up in P6, with the Red Bulls behind and Rubens alongside me, so it should be a fun race.
Q. From the perspective of five races not going the way you wanted, can we look at this as a watershed for you?
JB: We haven't had the race yet, but qualifying has gone well. And all weekend the car has worked reasonably well. We have been improving in certain areas, so so far it has been a good weekend, but Sunday is the important day. And I don't just want to score some points, I want to have a good race and finish as high up as I can.
Q. There has been a period of downtime for the people who are fighting for the championship. Do you feel that, and how do you cope with the situation?
JB: For the four people who have been very quick for most of the season, the Red Bulls and the Brawns, there have been some circuits that haven't suited our cars, and other people have improved their cars a lot. There are a lot of competitive cars out there and the times from the front of the grid to the back of the grid, there is a very, very small margin, so there are going to be some races that are going to be more difficult for both teams, Brawn and Red Bull, and we've seen in the last couple of races some very unusual outcomes – especially in qualifying and the race. The finishing positions in Spa were very unusual.
There are a lot of teams fighting at the front, and it is great for F1 – it makes it a lot more complicated and difficult for Red Bull and ourselves. But it is an exciting season, every season is different, and there are two teams that are fighting for the championship – and the other teams not so much. That is the same as it has been in previous years, and every single race and every single point is going to count until the end of the year.
Q. But aren't you getting nervous?
JB: It is an exciting situation to be in. I've never been in this situation before in F1. It is exciting and good to have three people challenging me, not just one. I am happy for today. It is a good position for us to be in for this weekend. We will then think about the next race after this weekend. Sixth is good, we have a lot of fuel on board and most of the KERS cars in front, so they will not jump us, and hopefully we will have a nice clean start and make up some places.
Q. Has your approach to this weekend been different, or is it simply that the car works?
JB: Yeah, the car is working here and we've got a different set-up to normal. We've gone through the weekend a little bit different with the fuel loads, and also with set-up, and I am happy with the way the car is. I was happy in Valencia, with the car very happy, and most of the weekend in Spa, but it just didn't go the right way in qualifying. You don't want to change too much. I've had an unlucky period, and hopefully that is going to change, qualifying has gone well and the big day is Sunday – so let's not get too excited.
Q. But if you nick some points off the Red Bulls here, does that not all but kill off their championship hopes?
JB: Well, I don't think it does. I have a 20 point lead and there are 50 points still to play for. It is still very easy for them to challenge us, and they might be running more fuel than us here. And if they are, then we have to watch out for them.
Q. On a one-stopper, it should be a grandstand finish shouldn't it?
JB: Most likely. There are possibilities in doing something different, but it is exciting when the cars in front are doing a two-stop. I think it should be a fun race – difficult, and tyre management is going to be important, and we need to see what the weather does.
Q. Are you worried about Fernando Alonso having KERS behind you?
JB: Their KERS has not been as competitive as Mercedes, and the Ferrari KERS system. But it is still close enough to challenge, but really I have to forget about what is behind and focus on moving forward.
Q. Was qualifying one in the eye for those who have doubted you?
JB: No, it was just a good day and a good sixth position. It put me in a reasonably good position for the race. That is what it was.
Q. And with Rubens alongside you, it is going to be quite a tricky start isn't it?
JB: Yeah, but we are not stupid as well. We both know that we want to score points here – and both want to score more than the other. That is the way it is, and starting fifth or sixth on the grid here, I don't know which position is better. We have to wait and see. But we are in a good position to fight for a result here.