WORLD champion Jenson Button, fresh from a superb triumph at the Australian Grand Prix, has moved to dampen expectations ahead of this weekend’s race in Malaysia.
The Englishman’s cunning early switch to slick tyres saw him sweep to a first victory of the season at Albert Park on Sunday.
It also lifted Button to third in the drivers’ standings and left his more illustrious new team-mate Lewis Hamilton firmly in the shade.
Yet the Somerset racer is not feeling too optimistic about the third race of the season, insisting the Sepang track will give his rivals the edge.
“It was a tremendous achievement to score our first win of the season in Melbourne last week, and it’s given every single member of the team even greater enthusiasm for this weekend,” said Button.
“Even so, I think we travel to Sepang mindful that the characteristics of the circuit probably won’t suit our car as well as it will suit some of the others – but I’m confident that, once again, we’ll be fighting at or near the front.”
Teams’ ability to adapt and develop their cars was one of the defining features of last season, in which the usual hierarchy was turned on its head, and Button believes McLaren is well equipped for a repeat this year.
“We’re only two races in, but I think the development race will already be starting to have an influence on performance,” he added.
“It’s the rate of improvement that will most influence the battle at the front, and I’m confident we can deliver in this area.
“It was something I watched the team doing throughout 2009, and it was one of the key reasons for deciding to hold talks with the team. I’m convinced we have the firepower to develop faster than our key rivals.”
This year’s race in Sepang has been moved back one hour to 4pm local time in a bid to avoid the heavy rain that blighted last year’s contest.
Hamilton burnout car attracts bids
THE LUXURY Mercedes in which Lewis Hamilton performed a ‘burnout’ stunt has become hot property in Australia. Would-be buyers have inundated Mercedes with offers for the £90,000 C63 AMG, after Hamilton’s team McLaren paid to have the car released by police and returned to the manufacturer, one of their partners. He was arrested and the car impounded on Friday in Melbourne.