Button more excited than ever at McLaren

Jenson Button can now be considered a seasoned campaigner and therefore rivals will need to take note of his confidence in a title bid with McLaren this season.

Jenson Button of McLaren

Button is too long in the tooth these days to spout pointless platitudes about his latest McLaren and his chances of becoming a double Formula One world champion.

So when Button proclaims himself to be more excited than ever about a new campaign and provides positive early feedback on the car you tend to sit up and take notice.

Ahead of his 14th season in F1, and with 228 grand prix starts behind him - now seventh on the all-time list - Button is like a child in a sweet shop.

For the first time since 2005 the 33-year-old is de facto number one, not that McLaren will ever concede the point given their long-held belief that both drivers within their team are equal.

But given his experience, the fact he has been with McLaren for the last three years and is 10 years the senior of new team-mate Sergio Perez, Button should rightly consider himself the team's 'go-to' man.

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It is not unfair to say there is a new lease of life about McLaren this season in light of Lewis Hamilton's departure to Mercedes. Hamilton had been with McLaren for 14 years, the last of six of which were in F1, and was part of the very fabric of the team.

It is no wonder Sir Jackie Stewart said at the time of Button's move to McLaren in 2010 that he was "venturing into the lion's den".

But Button survived; there was no mauling, barely even a scratch.

In fact, over the three years of their partnership, Button accumulated more points than Hamilton - 672 to 657. An impressive achievement.

And in 2011 Button became the first driver to beat Hamilton over the course of a year in any form of motorsport since the latter's days in karting.

So, if anything, Button actually enhanced his standing and reputation in F1, to such an extent plans have been tentatively mooted for him to become a team ambassador come the day he decides to retire.

For now, that is some way off, certainly if the enthusiasm with which he has greeted this season is anything to go by.

At the unveiling of the MP4-28 at the end of January, Button said of himself at the time that he was "pretty damn excited about this year".

He added: "I'm probably the most excited I've been since coming into the sport in 2000 with Williams, and I don't know why that is."

So when asked whether this was his best chance of another title, he added: "I would say yes, even if Lewis was here because I have more experience with the team."

As for the car itself, testing has not been entirely faultless, with Button departing Barcelona earlier this month happy with the feeling and understanding of it, but suggesting there was a need to build up confidence.

That will come, even though the team is also under the direction of a new technical director in Tim Goss following the sidelining of Paddy Lowe, who will see out the remainder of his contract before linking up with Mercedes.

Crucially for Button, this year's Pirelli tyres will be far more to his liking as opposed to last season when they wrecked his title aspirations.

After winning the season-opener in Australia and finishing second in China to lie second in the championship after the first three races, two points behind Hamilton, Button then embarked on a wretched run in which he collected a miserable seven points from six races.

The rubber was the bugbear given its very narrow operating window, too narrow for Button's liking, until a cure was found that came too late to revive his championship hopes.

For this season, Pirelli have improved their range of tyres which include, amongst other things, the fact they get up to temperature much more quickly and a wider range in temperature for them to work.

If there is one driver who can benefit, then it is Button.

"The tyres are very different this year," said Button.

"The idea behind them is to have a tyre that works a lot easier in terms of temperature, has a wider range and degrades more.

"I feel this should work better for my style of driving and for how the car works."

As the elder statesman in the team, and given his years with McLaren, there is a degree of pressure on his shoulders as he will be expected to beat Perez.

For now, at least, there is healthy respect between the duo, as well as a level of camaraderie that was rarely prevalent with Hamilton.

The two Britons tolerated one another, but were never friends.

As far as Perez is concerned, Button plans to work more closely with the Mexican than he did with Hamilton, believing it will help him and the team on the whole.

Although Perez will be the more natural beneficiary as he is by far the younger of the two and has more to learn, Button said: "You need to get an understanding between team-mates.

"He's going to explain what is happening with the car differently to how I would explain it.

"So it's important for us to spend a lot of time together, and work with the engineers closely."

With regard to the all-round package - the car, his team-mate, his feelings within the team - Button is certainly content.

But as to whether he can claim a second title to add to the one he won with Brawn GP in 2009, Button says with a grin: "Just don't ask.

"I feel very comfortable in the car. Can it win the championship? We'll have to wait and see."

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