World Champion Jenson Button spoke to a few of the leading F1 websites today on a phone-in from the McLaren Technology Centre.
He seemed very upbeat after the testing and clearly believes that he has a competitive car. However he said that the last few weeks have proved to him that the first few laps of the race are going to be vital,
“It’s like an endurance race, like Le Mans, ” he said. “The car works very differently from high to low fuel loads in terms of balance. It is a different way of driving from last season. We have to look after the tyres a bit more, it’s tough on the tyres. If you damage the tyres on lap three in the race you’re screwed for the whole stint. So you have be gentle with the car.
“You have to work them the right way. They are on a knife edge, either they work or if they get outside the temperature range they fall off a cliff.”
Button confirmed what we’ve been saying on JA on F1 for some time, that the adjustable front wing is proving a crucial tool this season. Ferrari had theirs before McLaren and made good use of it, but it was interesting to note at the final test in Barcelona when McLaren fitted theirs for the first time, how much it helped in preserving the tyres over the long runs.
Hamilton’s race simulation on Sunday afternoon showed the lap times coming down nice and gradually, from 1m26s to 1m 25s in the first stint, then from 1m24s to 1m23s in the second stint and then from high 1m23s to 1m22s and low 1m 23s in the final stint.
“The way the cars work now with high fuel you really are adjusting the front wing a lot,” said Button. “Having it at the last test, you play around with it a lot as the fuel load comes down and through every stint and it’s key. The reliability of that front wing is key.”
Button also said that it is clear that the way the races will run this season will be quite different, things will be far less planned and much more reactive,
“I think the top teams will have similar strategies, although people will be looking to stop two or three laps before their rivals so they can get out and jump them,” he said. “You will also have the teams that aren’t so competitive trying crazy strategies like pitting on lap one and then hoping they can run to the end of the race.
“There will be lots of different strategies which will make it very exciting for the viewers but will make it very difficult for us. You cannot plan in advance really. All you can do is go through every scenario and hope that you are ready when you have to jump on a strategy change.”