Button determined to turn pole positions into grand prix glory

Nothing less than victory will do for the Englishman this season. David Tremayne hears how consistency has fuelled ambition
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Jenson Button is enjoying the sunshine in Melbourne's Albert Park and is feeling mellow. "Testing is important," he concedes, "but I really love racing".

Jenson Button is enjoying the sunshine in Melbourne's Albert Park and is feeling mellow. "Testing is important," he concedes, "but I really love racing".

But for a moment that harmless little word, "consistency", works the faintest hint of an edge into his voice as somebody mentions it when describing his 2004 season. By any standard it was his best since he came into Formula One with Williams-BMW five years ago: his first pole position, a whole raft of podiums, third place overall in the drivers' rankings behind Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. There is no sense of censure in the use of the word, but the fact that he bristles slightly at the idea of being labelled "consistent" gives an intriguing insight into his mindset.

"I don't want to get into this consistency thing," he says, "because 2004 wasn't just about that. You don't get pole at Imola ahead of Ferrari just by being consistent. Or go from 13th to second at Hockenheim just by being consistent. We were very quick and we didn't get the win we were looking for, but we are a lot more experienced now."

But until he and his BAR-Honda team do win, they will not be deemed to have made the true breakthrough. A victory will do so much more than elevate them into a rare élite. Button acknowledges this more readily.

"Sure, it's important for the team to win and to fight for the championship this season, but to be honest I don't see any one person or team winning the first seven races, as happened with Michael last year. I think it's going to be very competitive and I think there will be a lot of different winners. It's going to be awesome for F1. All of the teams that are challenging Ferrari have taken big steps forward, they have quick cars. Of course, we don't know how quick the old Ferrari will be, or the new one."

With new rules permitting teams only one set of tyres from Saturday onwards, the 25-year-old Englishman believes that Ferrari will be disadvantaged as the only major player running on Bridgestones.

"I believe the Michelin is a better tyre and I think the reason the Ferrari was so quick in 2004 was not down to the tyres," he said. "It was just a better car. In winter testing Michelin have had a better tyre, so none of us can use Michelin as an excuse for not being quick. Our tyre works well over one lap even when the conditions are cold, which is good, but what's going to be interesting is running the same tyres and a reasonable fuel load in qualifying on Sunday morning, after running the tyres in newer state and with low fuel on Saturday afternoon. If you flat-spot a tyre Sunday morning, you've destroyed your race."

He is clearly relishing his role as the top British driver.

"It's a great feeling, but it's very difficult to feel the support that I get at home," he said. "That was awesome at Silverstone last year. It was hyped up so much that we would win the British Grand Prix, and I knew from testing that it would be very difficult and I didn't want to let people down, but hopefully they will still support us this year.

"For me this is going to be the best year, we are going to be very competitive. We have simulated our fuel stops, and qualifying with high fuel loads and old tyres, and have done a lot of running to assess the new rules. We should be strong."

His aim is obvious. "I want to win a race. As a racing driver that's what I want to do. We want to win the championship, of course, but we need first to concentrate on winning a race. Yes, we have set targets for the year; we have done for the past couple of years. But you can't look too far into the future with F1. The next three to four races we have goals and targets. If we reach these, great. If not, we have to learn from our mistakes. But you can never overachieve, can you? That's not an issue."

Further down the paddock, Paul Stoddart is still fighting to have his Minardi cars allowed to run in 2004 specification. But his case received a setback when Christian Horner, the newly appointed team principal of Red Bull Racing, said he would not sign Stoddart's petition, which requires all nine rivals to agree before his cars can run unless he updates them overnight. "I sympathise with their position," Horner said, "but rules are rules. Nothing would be more frustrating on our debut than for Minardi to beat us to the final point."