Date:Monday April 16 2012
Jenson Button probably came away from the Chinese Grand Prix just as satisfied as eventual race winner Nico Rosberg.
Not that he would admit it.
While McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton was dialled in and on the pace throughout the entire weekend, Jenson Button struggled throughout practice with steering issues.
The pace for the McLaren was clearly there, but in practice and in part to the colder than expected track and air temperatures in China, Button struggled.
In Free Practice 1, Button was eight a whopping 2.093 seconds behind the pace of Hamilton. Of course both drivers are concentrating on various set-ups during practice, but it wouldn't have been the start Button was looking for.
In FP2 Button was 0.738 off the pace of Schumacher and still over 0.5 second behind Hamilton.
On Saturday, Button finally closed the gap on Hamilton, he was still slower than his team-mate, but he was second on the time-sheets and McLaren went into qualifying, hopeful they could once again lock out the front row, of course only temporarily due to Hamilton's gear box penalty.
But it wasn't to be as Hamilton was beaten to pole position by the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, while Button was also behind the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and the other Mercedes of Michael Schumacher.
Once again Button confessed that he was struggling with the cooler temperatures.
ďIn Q1, we went out on the softer tyre and put a lap on it when most of the other teams didnít. In Q2, I felt I had too much understeer, so we made a few adjustments for Q3. However, I could feel the temperature dropping in that final session: I think we just went out a little too late. Of course, thatís a little bit disappointing, but our race pace seems to be very good. Itís going to be tricky to get heat into the front tyres if itís cold' Button told formula1.com after qualifying.
But if qualifying was poor by Button's standards it was all forgotten by the first corner.
Starting ahead of Hamilton due to his grid penalty, Button managed to beat both Raikkonen and Kobayashi into the first corner to tuck in behind the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Schumacher.
Button simply didn't have the pace of the Mercedes during the early part of the race, but Schumacher was the big casualty of the first round of pit-stops, the front right tyre changer didn't manage to bolt on his wheel before the traffic light system went green and Schumacher was released from the garage with only three wheels safely attached to his car and he went on to retire after a few corners.
Button didn't have his own way in the pits either and when a slow change at the back end of his car lost him 6 seconds or so, it was clear he wasn't going to be able to challenge Rosberg for the win as he now had to battle through a train of cars to regain track position.
After the race Button told the press: 'who knows what we could have achieved if weíd had a clear run at him in the final stint? Our pace was very good and the aim was to come out ahead of that following pack of cars - which we would have done if we hadnít lost time in the pitstop - and chase him down and put him under pressure. The delay in the final stop was just one of those things though - all the other stops had been very strong this weekend, but that one in particular wasnít. The delay pushed me back into the traffic, which was a little bit of a shock, but the pace and consistency are there in the car and I was able to get back into second position, after a good battle and a satisfying pass on Sebastian (Vettel). Itís disappointing not to have been able to challenge for the win, but it was a fun race with tons of overtaking and lots of battling. More important, itís been a great day for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes because weíre now leading both world championships.'
Date:Monday April 16 2012
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