F1: Jenson Button reluctantly puts points ahead of podium push for McLaren

 

If Jenson Button was remotely peeved that his former team-mate Lewis Hamilton was on the podium again yesterday while he could only manage fifth place in his McLaren, he hid it well. Instead, the Briton was in buoyant mood after another race which suggests that the Woking team are getting on top of their new car.

Like Sebastian Vettel, Button was behind faster rivals after qualifying and in eighth place at the start of the Chinese Grand Prix. He began slowly, but was in the lead once the faster qualifiers stopped to change their soft tyres and Nico Hulkenberg and Vettel pitted for mediums.

He had to surrender the lead to Fernando Alonso on the track on the 21st lap, but made his tyres last until the 23rd with another display of his fluid style. He was back up to third by lap 38 as others made their final stops and kept going until the 49th before pitting again. Fifth place, just ahead of Felipe Massa's Ferrari, was respectable.

"I'm very happy to have finished fifth today and the team should be too," he said. "The race was always going to be tricky. We weren't quick enough to adopt the same strategy as the others, so we had to run longer than the rest and make two pit stops, rather than three.

"For us, a two-stopper was the fastest way to the end of the race. It meant I had to let others past me and protect the tyres. If we couldn't run to our target lap, it would have destroyed our race."

At one stage, when challenged by Hamilton, Button asked over the radio: "Do we want to fight?" He was told: "Yes, we do!" But most of the time he could not do that.

"I had to cruise when I would normally fight the others. It's not the most exciting way to go racing, but we got 10 points today because we did it. We know we still have a lot of work to do to challenge at the front, but we can take a lot of positives away from this weekend."

Scotland's Paul Di Resta was less fortunate. He was lucky to survive a brush at the end of the first lap with his Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil which momentarily pushed him off the track. Afterwards, he had no doubt that the incident had prevented him from achieving a better result than eighth. "Unfortunately, the contact with Adrian at the hairpin set us back three or four places," Di Resta said. "From there I just could not get unleashed so I had to settle in with everyone else."

His third stint was extremely quick, however, and he made up places quickly. "That third stint was awesome," he said. "We were just able to pick our way up and caught up a lot of seconds on the cars in front.

"That is what eventually got us the eighth place. It was a remarkable recovery. I think we can be confident that we could have done a very good job if everything had gone to plan."

Sutil, however, said his team-mate had put himself in a risky place in the traffic on the opening lap and that was why they collided. "I didn't really see anything," he said. "I just felt a hit on my rear tyre and looked in the mirror and saw Paul was there. I don't know what he was trying."

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