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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
Jenson Button speaks to Front Row Group about the F1 rules revolution

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F1 faces huge challenges this season in the face of a major overhaul of its technical regulations, as for the first time the sport embraces hybrid power in a meaningful way. Front Row Group caught up with legendary McLaren-Mercedes driver Jenson Button to hear his thoughts.

FRG: Congratulations to both you and teammate Kevin Magnussen on your 2nd and 3rd places at the Australian Grand Prix, and for taking McLaren-Mercedes to the top of the constructors' championship. How was your first race of the season?

 

Australia was a really motivational race for the entire team - even though we still have work to do, it feels like we've turned a corner, and that we have a racecar we can definitely work with this year.

It's important that we keep pushing hard on the development front - we brought some useful upgrades to Melbourne, and it was encouraging that they worked straight out of the box, but it's essential that we keep pushing new items through the development pipeline, especially at these flyaway races, where it's harder to bring parts to the circuit.

FRG: Mercedes seems to be the clear pacesetter at the moment, with Nico Rosberg finishing a comfortable 24 seconds ahead of the field in Melbourne. Given you're using the same power train, what areas will your team be focusing its efforts on over the coming weeks in order to close that gap?

We showed in Australia that we can score good points if our car is reliable, and we need to consolidate that over the next few races and one of the ways to do that is to make sure that we're bringing new parts to the track as fast as, if not faster, than our chief rivals.

Sepang is a great driver's circuit, and a place that should suit our car quite well even if we don't have the overall package, we should have the balance and driveability to make the car work. And that's really encouraging, because it means you go into a race weekend knowing that you can usually get the maximum from the car during the sessions and the race. Even if we don't yet have the pace to take the fight to the frontrunners, we should have a car that's strong in every sector, and which we'll be able to hustle through the race and that definitely counts for something.

FRG: There were fears that reliability issues would become the deciding factor in race results this season, but the biggest talking point in Australia was Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo losing his 2nd place finish some 5 hours after the chequered flag due to a technical infringement relating to fuel flow rates. Do you think the new regulations have become too complicated? Are they in danger of ruining the spectacle for the fans who want to see races decided on the track?

 

I really feel for Daniel, who drove a great race in his first race for his new team, in front of his home crowd. Obviously it was great for me as I got promoted to 3rd but I definitely feel for the guy. From a fan's perspective I'm sure different people have different opinions. Some might say that they saw some great action on the track and were also enthralled by the drama that took place off of it. There always seems to be a divided opinion with such matters.

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FRG: Red Bull and engine partner Renault have dominated both championships over the past few years, but looked to have fallen behind during pre-season testing. While Sebastian Vettel had a difficult first race weekend, Daniel Ricciardo's performance seems to indicate they're back in the hunt. Do you see them becoming the ones to beat again as the season progresses?

I think there are clearly a few teams who will be fighting it out this year at the top. Whether one team can dominate early on and steal a sizeable lead is yet to be seen but I have no doubt that Red Bull will be in the hunt again this year.

FRG: Next stop, Malaysia. How will you prepare for what will undoubtedly be a challenging race given the usual heat and humidity at this time of year, and it being monsoon season? And what extra challenges do you think the conditions might pose for the new power trains and systems?

I've been out in Thailand training hard and acclimatising to the conditions which I have done in previous years and certainly helps. I've been with Jessica and a few friends running and spending a lot of time on the bike. Malaysia is always somewhat of a lottery in terms of the weather and at what point over the course of the weekend it takes effect, from that perspective you really are simply preparing for the unexpected and especially when teams are still really getting to grips with how the cars perform under varying conditions.

FRG: The Jenson Button Trust Triathlon is returning for the 3rd year this July, registrations have just recently opened. For both sports you need to maintain a high level of fitness, does training for one complement the other?

Yeah triathlon is something that has become a big part of my life, and of course first and foremost it's something I use to keep fit for my day job! The JBT Triathlon is something I'm so proud of and it's raised a great amount of money for charity in its first two years where we supported Help for Heroes and we're now embarking on a great new partnership with Cancer Research UK which I'm very excited about. There are some places left, so feel free to register at jensonbutton.com - we reward you with a barbecue, live music and cold beer so it's not all pain!

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