• Tyre issue in Canada leaves Button trailing in championship
• ‘I’m driving my heart out, but it just isn’t working’
Jenson Button has admitted he does not understand why he cannot unlock better performance from his McLaren, despite “driving my heart out” in another troubled race when he finished 16th in the Canadian Grand Prix, lapped by his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, who went on to win.
After opening the season on a high with victory in Australia, Button, a driver well known for his ability to manage his tyres, has increasingly struggled to optimise the car and its relationship with this season’s Pirelli rubber, which has a narrow operating window and is sensitive to driving style and track conditions. He has now scored only two points in the last four races and is eighth in the drivers’ championship, 43 points behind Hamilton, who tops the table.
Button began Sunday’s race on the soft (prime) tyre having qualified in 10th but early in the race he was struggling with a lack of grip. A switch to the super soft (option) offered no solution as he struggled with degradation on both types of rubber and found himself stuck in midfield.
That it was a problem managing tyres was of particular issue to the British driver. “I don’t get it,” he said. “It’s something we need to work out because throughout my whole career of 12 years that’s something I’ve always been reasonably good at.
“On my side of the garage it was a very difficult day. When you are one and a half, two seconds off the pace of the leaders and you are in a car the same as the leading car, it’s difficult to understand.” There are 13 races to go and a full 325 points available, so although he is firmly focused on returning to a competitive position on the track, his championship is not necessarily over.
Button also has considerable experience of working with an underperforming car, having endured two torrid years with a very poor Honda in 2007 and 2008 – a period that will no doubt assist with his ability to cope with the current difficulties at McLaren. “Mentally it’s not a problem because I know I can still drive a racing car,” he said, while insisting there was certainly no lack of effort on his part. “I’m not taking a holiday right now. I’m driving my heart out but it just isn’t working – something isn’t working for me.”
His difficulties in the race were further emphasised by the performances of Romain Grosjean of Lotus and Sergio Pérez of Sauber. Grosjean one-stopped the race and finished second from seventh on the grid, while Pérez put in an extraordinary demonstration of tyre management to take third from 15th. Pérez made his first set of tyres last 41 laps and Grosjean drove a stint to the finish covering 49 laps, a strategy Button and McLaren may have been hoping to match but could not manage with the way Button’s car was wearing its tyres.
With the next race in Valencia two weeks’ away and the leaders starting to stretch away from Button, he admits there is nothing to do but keep battling away, including learning from how Hamilton sets up his car.
“We’ll sort it out,” he said. “There’s no finger pointing, which is good from the team and myself. We just have to sit down and try and work out what the issues are. Every time I put on my helmet and get in the car I’m confident we’ve sorted out the issues and I can go out and fight for a win. It’s not like I think, ‘Oh, here we go again’.
“But we will understand, because this is a great team which has won many races and world championships, and we’ve won many great races together. So I will solve the issues – or we will solve the issues together.”