Jenson Button: Downbeat driver cannot wait to put season behind him

McLaren man admits 'failed gamble' with car has left him pinning hopes on 2014 campaign

Silverstone

Even at this early stage of the Formula One season, Jenson Button is looking forward to next year.

It has been a miserable start to 2013 for Button and McLaren. He has yet to finish a grand prix in better than fifth place, while his team-mate Sergio Perez has done no better than sixth. Clearly the 2013 McLaren is just not good enough.

Although next week's British Grand Prix is only the eighth of the 19-race season, Button is already having to pour all his hopes for more glory into 2014. "We expect to be fighting for race wins next year," said Button, looking out over Silverstone and making the most confident prediction he could. "This has been a difficult year for us, and we still hope to be fighting at the end of the year for race wins. So definitely next year we will start the season looking to win the world championship.

"We all know how difficult it is to win a world championship. Nobody has won except for Red Bull in the last three years. It shows how difficult it is in Formula One to be competitive. Every year we've raced we've scored five or six victories, which is great, but this year we haven't.

"But I don't think you can do it every year. We did take a gamble with the direction of the car, and it hasn't worked for us this year. But we are still a great team and we will fight back and we will win races again."

The tight regulations of modern Formula One mean that McLaren are unlikely to become much more competitive over the rest of this season and, for a team hardly ever out of the constructors' championship top three, that is difficult to take.

"This year is tough. I want to win grands prix, as every driver does, and when we get to [qualifying] and you see you're a second off the pace, of course that hurts. But you can't always be on top, and it hurts when you're not," Button said.

"When you're with a big team like McLaren you feel you're going to get out of the slump quicker. But the problem with the sport at the moment is that it's so competitive. If it was 2004 we would be winning races by now but it's so much more difficult, especially with the way the regulations are. You are limited in what you can do; it makes it very difficult to bridge that gap.

"But next year will be a completely different challenge for all of us. You all start from square one, so it will be really interesting to see who does get the jump on everyone."

For now, though, there are another 12 races, starting on 30 June at Silverstone. Button's frustrations are clear as he fears that, this time, he cannot give his fans the victory that they want.

"If the fans are expecting us to win, we would love to be able to give them that but I don't think we are able to," he conceded. "But I still really look forward to the British Grand Prix. It's a circuit I love to drive. I've got a lot of good memories here, of the circuit and of the fans. They've been so supportive, of myself and also of the team, in such tough times.

"We're still going to do the best job we can here, and I think the important thing is we give everything we have over this weekend and come away and think as a team this weekend we did everything we could to put on a show for the British fans.

"Whether that's finishing fifth or seventh, I don't know where we're going to be, but if we finish the race and we've got everything out of it, we should be happy with our achievements that weekend."

So for Button, never happier than when he is at Silverstone, the prospect of being back at his racing home later this month is still very attractive.

"I love racing, I love competing and I love jumping in an F1 car. Even here on the Friday, I'm hoping we'll have good weather and a full house. And jumping in the car and driving round the circuit in front of a home crowd is a special feeling. I remember coming here in 1994 and seeing Formula One cars drive around.

"When we drive out on the circuit on Friday, it doesn't matter where we finish the grand prix, or where we think we're going to finish, the British fans will be excited about a McLaren driving up the circuit, the history that team has and seeing one in real life is special.

"I'm really looking forward to that moment and, hopefully, a positive weekend." Unfortunately for Button, McLaren, and the Silverstone fans, that does not quite mean what it used to.

Q&A: Thursday's tyregate hearing

Q. What's it all about?

Mercedes are accused of breaching laws which prevent teams testing during the season, after trying out one of their current race cars with Pirelli tyres in Barcelona the week after the Spanish Grand Prix on 12 May.

Q. Can't Pirelli test?

Yes, but only if they ask all the teams, the teams agree, and one lets them use a car that is two years old or more – not a current model.

Q. Didn't Ferrari have a similar test before the Spanish GP?

Yes, but though they used test driver Pedro de la Rosa under their Corsa Clienti "rich owners" programme, it was with the older F150 Italia model from 2011.

Q. So why did Mercedes do it?

They say they were given permission by the FIA for the test to go ahead, using Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in a current car, in order to help Pirelli with development of 2014 tyres.

Q. Did they gain a benefit that helped in Monaco win?

Categorically not, say Mercedes and Pirelli; all the other teams claim they did.

Q. What's the FIA International Tribunal?

It was part of a revamp of the judicial system introduced by the FIA General Assembly in 2010 to deal independently with matters beyond the remit of the race stewards that the FIA appoints for each grand prix.

Q. Who sits on it?

The president Edwin Glasgow, who is British, and his vice-president Laurent Anselmi, of Monaco, will preside over a 12-man panel that is wholly separate from the governing body. None of them will be the same nationality as either of the main parties in the case.

Q. How does the tribunal operate?

Mercedes, Pirelli and other interested parties will have submitted written evidence before the hearing and the final proceedings are being heard in Paris with the media in attendance.

Q. What's Mercedes' defence?

They are believed to have email evidence that the FIA said they could go ahead and conduct the test with Pirelli.

Q. What punishment can the tribunal impose?

The tribunal can impose reprimands, fines, points deductions, bans or other sanctions, such as time penalties, suspensions, disqualification or an obligation to do work in the public interest.

Q. When will we get a result?

Perhaps tomorrow, but it might take longer.

Q. Might Lewis Hamilton miss Silverstone if Mercedes were immediately banned for a race?

Anything's possible.

David Tremayne

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