MARCH 24, 2011
Button explains tyre dilemma
Jenson Button has outlined some of the tyre issues that will drive tactics in this weekend's Melbourne F1 season-opener and has predicted a race that could go down to the last corner because teams don't yet understand how the Pirelli tyres will be under race conditions.
"The tyres are going to be interesting," the '09 world champion said. "None of us have raced them. Some people have done race distances but it is always different when there are cars around you. When you're stuck behind someone, running with less downforce, the tyres get damaged very quickly. It will be interesting to see how people look after the tyres, or whether we just take our brains out and go full speed ahead."
Button, renowned for his smooth, precise driving style, does not think that the benefits of that will help him early in the races but says it may pay dividends in the closing stages.
"I don't think tyre management and smooth driving style will help you win a race if you haven't got a quick car," he said. "For me looking after the tyres in the last stint will be important but the first two or three, not so much. The important thing will be to stop one lap before everyone else -- if you do that you'll overtake them because you'll put new tyres on and go 3-4s a lap quicker. The main question will be, who's going to be brave enough to stop earliest? Then, you might think you've made a lot of ground up after the first stop but you could lose it all again on the last stint. It's a balancing act and it's going to take a few races to work out what the best strategy is.
"If we are doing a three stop race and its 60 laps long, you're going to be stopping every 15 laps. In the real world that would be the quickest way to the end of the race but if everyone's stopping on lap 15, you want to stop on lap 14 because you'll overtake people.
"The problem is, everyone is going to be thinking the same way and so they'll be bringing it further and further forward, so you could be stopping on lap 9. And then you've got to do the rest of the race with two stops on two sets of tyres and they are not going to last that long. It's pretty much impossible for them to last that long with the degradation. The first few stops are going to be happening quite early and the last stint is the one where you will need the tyre management.
"I think you'll see so much overtaking in the last stint here in Melbourne that it will shock everyone. It's going to be to the last corner, I think, this race, which is great. I don't know if all of them will be like that but this one will because we don't understand the tyres yet."
Button admitted that McLaren's reliability problems in testing have nod added up to the best preparation. "I'm not going to lie," he said, "the amount of laps we did in pre-season testing was not enough, just over half what the other top guys did. It's nowhere near enough going into a season but I have been there before, and I won the championship!"