OCTOBER 10, 2011
Whitmarsh: Jenson did everything you'd expect
After Jenson Button took McLaren's fifth win of the season at Suzuka, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh looked back on varying fortunes of Button and Lewis Hamilton.
Q: A great, finely-judged win from Jenson?
It was a finely judged weekend. He could have been involved in an accident going down to the first corner and if it wasn't for Jenson there would have been an accident. Jenson had to back out of that. After that he looked after his tyres when he had to, pushed when he had to and the strategy ran well. He had a bit of pressure at the end but absorbed that and drove carefully, looking after the car and tyres for a fantastic win. He's just a great, great professional race driver at the moment -- doing everything you'd expect with his experience and his quality.
Q: What was your verdict on the start?
That it was pretty tough! The fact is Jenson had to back out of the throttle and back out of KERS and drive on the grass. Add all that together and I think it was probably a bit over-exuberant on Seb's part. We won the race so I don't feel so unhappy, but if we hadn't I'm sure I'd care a lot more!
Q: Was Jenson low on fuel at the end?
We were cautious at the end, yes, just looking after things and maybe causing a bit of tension, but I think he drove the right race. You've got to win by a second, you don't have to win by seconds plural -- especially in those circumstances.
Q: Did Jenson use the tyres better than the Red Bull this weekend?
A lot of work went into that. He was lifting and coasting at various parts of the race, just looking after it and not chasing and getting stuck up someone's diffuser. It's non-intuitive to a race driver to have a car in front of him that he thinks he can catch, but doesn't. That's the maturity and brains that Jenson brings to bear at the moment.
Q: Did Lewis pay the price for having to start on older tyres?
He had a slow puncture actually. We could see it, he had a big imbalance across the rear axle from that and I think that cost him a couple of places and then the coming together with Felipe didn't help either. It was tough to come back from that and I think in fairness to Lewis he drove a controlled and disciplined race and scored some valuable points. But by his own standards he'll be disappointed.
Q: How did you read the coming-together with Massa?
Sadly they do seem to be magnetised at the moment but Lewis didn't see him. You can say well, he should have done, are the mirrors big enough/good enough? Maybe not, but it was one of those things. It wasn't one of those accidents where you say it's because of previous form. In truth Felipe had more space than Jenson had at the start. If he'd moved off-line harder, he'd have avoided it.
Q: How confident do you feel for the last four races?
We've felt for the last few races that we've got a car we can races with. All of the last ones are winnable. There's a good fight in the drivers' championship for second place. That might not inspire many of us but I think you have to concentrate on it. The constructors' championship looks pretty settled in terms of the top four places so I think it's about winning races. This was our fifth this season and if we win the next four I think we can consider it a half respectable season.
Q: Is it important that the team showed it can beat Red Bull?
The biggest disappointment was not getting pole when we thought we could have done. There are no points for it but for your own pride you'd like to score a pole or two before the end of the season.
Q: Does Lewis just need a change of luck?
He's got to feel comfortable in himself and it will come. He is a great driver, his heart is in it and he's very open about his emotions and he doesn't like not winning. I hope this time next week we are celebrating one of Lewis's greatest victories ever. And that's entirely possible. We know we've got a car that can give him a win and he's got the capability to do it. All top sportsmen have confidence levels that ebb and flow a little bit.