Wednesday 13 December 2017

F1: Jenson Button rejects 'lucky' tag after victory in Melbourne

Jenson Button celebrates winning the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Photo: Getty Images
Jenson Button celebrates winning the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Photo: Getty Images

Tom Cary

Jenson Button believes back-to-back titles "might be on" after rejecting suggestions that his win in Sunday's dramatic Australian Grand Prix was lucky.

After a night of torrential rain in Melbourne, that washed away any lasting memories of the disappointing season opener in Bahrain, the world champion was to be found celebrating his victory by splashing the cash with his girlfriend, Jessica Michibata, on a shopping trip in town.

It brought to mind a similar scene 12 months before, as Button had basked in his first win for Brawn GP on their race debut.

In fact, the McLaren man has been intent this past weekend on re-enacting every last detail of his championship-winning season – from coffee at the same restaurant in St Kilda, to dinner with Michibata at his favourite Japanese restaurant.

And even if that attention to detail is unlikely to produce the run of six wins in seven grands prix that saw him establish an unassailable lead in last year's title race, Button is confident that as long as he can stay in the hunt, McLaren will reach a stage when they actually have the fastest car in the field.

"It's only two races in but I am really happy the way we have improved," said Button, who lies third in the championship, six points behind leader Fernando Alonso. "We were saying after Bahrain I didn't have a good race [he finished seventh] but I got reasonable points.

"[Red Bull's Sebastian] Vettel had the quickest car here but they weren't able to make the most of it and didn't get points. They haven't got the reliability. We are picking up points when we don't have the quickest car and hopefully we will get to a point when we are as quick or quicker."

Button, who made an inspired call after just six laps to switch to dry weather tyres and then profited from Vettel's retirement, revealed that McLaren have "a couple of things" which will add to their performance at Malaysia's Sepang circuit this weekend. However, he admitted that their one-lap pace was still not up to that of Ferrari or Red Bull.

"You can't call this win lucky," stressed Button, who is attempting to become only the fourth Briton after Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Sir Jackie Stewart to win multiple world titles. "Some people will say it is but you can't be lucky that many times. We made the right call at the right time.

"You want to retain your title but only 30pc of drivers do it. It's never easy, especially fighting against these exceptional drivers. It would be an achievement to win back-to-back titles with two different teams but we can't write that story yet.

"We don't come away from here thinking we can win the next race easy. It's not like that. We have a long way to go, so we are going to work on it and I hope this win has spurred us all on."

Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner, meanwhile, claims there is "no panic" within his camp that they have failed to convert their early-season advantage into tangible points.

"We know we have got a fast car and I would far rather have a fast car than a slow car," he said. "Other teams will have other issues at different points of the year."

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