Jenson Button confident of pace to match Sebastian Vettel
Thursday 14 April 2011
McLaren's Jenson Button is convinced he has the pace to thwart Sebastian Vettel's bid to become the first ever two-time winner of the Chinese Grand Prix.
Red Bull driver Vettel has made a flying start to the new Formula One campaign, winning two out of two to extend his winning sequence for four grands prix dating back to last season.
This weekend the young German is gunning for the dual honour of registering five wins on the spin while also becoming the only man to win twice in Shanghai since the race's inception in 2004.
But Button - also part of that merry band of Shanghai winners alongside Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen - believes he can tear up the form book and deny Vettel his little moment of history come Sunday.
"If we get a nice clean race start, we could have a fun race and I think the pace [between McLaren and Red Bull] will be reasonably similar," Button said.
"I finished three seconds behind him [in Malaysia] but he definitely slowed down at the end of the race, but I don't think he did on every lap. Our pace was quite similar."
Button's strong second place in Sepang came on the heels of team-mate Hamilton's identical result in Australia, and McLaren are confident that Red Bull are there for the taking.
Although Red Bull have suffered issues with their KERS power-boost at the opening rounds, Button maintains it is his team that has the most to gain from ironing out their early-season glitches.
"I think that we probably can make more headway than Red Bull, because of not really completely knowing our car and not having the perfect set-up over the past couple of races," he continued.
"Also we have some updates here; I don't know if Red Bull has."
Friday practice is shaping up to be a frantic day for McLaren, with revisions to their car's floor and exhaust system - first trialled with limited success in Malaysia - set to again be evaluated.
But Button claims there are plenty of other avenues to explore as they bid for the increase in performance that will end Vettel's supremacy.
"It's not just about the updates, it's about fine-tuning what we have already," Button added. "It's going to be a busy day."
Button's team-mate Hamilton is determined to use last weekend's Malaysia disappointment as a spur to better things this weekend.
Hamilton qualified second at Sepang but lost the place to Renault's Nick Heidfeld at the start before dropping back with badly degrading tyres.
A tangle with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso did little to help his cause, while a post-race 20-second penalty for apparently weaving to defend his position from the Spaniard also contributed to his eventual eighth place.
"I want to bounce back from that because we really had the opportunity to finish second quite easily," he said.
"To end up eighth after starting second on the grid is not the kind of performance that we want to have in the future.
"But it's in the past, it's the very early stages of the championship.
"I actually look at it as a blessing because there are many races where you start in nice positions and you don't get any points at all.
"I've still got a couple of points and who knows whether they will be quite valuable points in the future."
Meanwhile, Vettel, who leads the way in the drivers' standings by 24 points from Button, has confirmed Red Bull will run with KERS this weekend despite the problems the team encountered with the device in Malaysia and Australia.
"KERS is an advantage this year and it will help you if you are looking for lap performance," he explained.
"It makes sense to run KERS and we were not proud not to have it in Australia. But we were, for the majority of the weekend, able to run it in Malaysia, and within that short amount of time we made a big step.
"We've only had a couple of days [between Malaysia and China], but I've been pushing very hard and I'm confident we will have it in the car and I'm confident we will have it all weekend.
"We will be using it tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday - I hope!"
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