McLaren’s Jenson Button has been excited about the introduction of next season’s new regulations since back 2012 and he is confident he will be able to adapt his driving style to get the most out of the new cars.
Formula 1 will see a switch to V6 turbo engines next season while engines will need to use around 50kg less fuel to complete a race distance – that’s a 33% reduction on this year.
The Briton, who made his debut in 2000 and will start his 15th season in the sport next year, believes drivers will have a lot of challenges to overcome, but those who can overcome them quickly can gain a significant advantage early in the season.
“I was already thinking about the future – 2014 – back in 2012,” Button told the November edition of the JA on F1 podcast. “Initially, it was a big surprise to hear we would have such a small engine and also have eight gears (rather than seven) which we cannot change throughout the year.
“But I think the way the sport is going in terms of technology for use in road cars is great. It’s a new challenge for all of us and I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a lot to learn but you can make a big difference in the early part of the season if you can get your head around it.”
Button said there will be less of a difference between qualifying and the race in terms of lap time because there’s so much less fuel going into the car for the race. Does that suit his style? “If you’re willing to adapt your style, it suits you,” he said. “I’m definitely up for doing that so yes, it suits me.”
The 33-year-old added that he hasn’t had much time in the simulator working on the 2014 car – but that will change once the season is over.
“I have not done a lot,” he said. “And it’s because the team don’t want to shock me with how different the car feels. As it’s so different to what we have now, they want me to concentrate on the races this season and then focus on that at the end of the year. The good thing is, we’ve got a lot of experienced test drivers putting the car through its paces in the simulator.”
McLaren are suffering one of their most uncompetitive seasons since 1980, with fifth place the team’s best finish so far this year. The team took a risk with the design of their car but it didn’t come off.
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh says that while the team have long since stopped trying to recover this season, the opportunity to work on next year’s car earlier should give them hope of running back at the front in 2014.
“To compete with anyone, you have to take some risks,” said Whitmarsh. “Looking to 2014, we don’t have the opportunity to take back off and be more conservative because we have a whole new set of regulations.
“We took the unusual decision for McLaren to stop development of this year’s car which meant recovery this season became impossible. We took the decision because of the importance of being competitive next year.
“Normally at this time of year, we’ve been poor at stopping development because we have been winning races and challenging for the championship so we have struggled to move resources across to the next year. This season, the decision to do that has been made easier for us.”
You can hear more Jenson Button and Martin Whitmarsh in the November edition of the JA on F1 podcast. It also features interviews with Red Bull design chief Adrian Newey and world champion Sebastian Vettel.