Jenson Button has conceded that his team-mate Lewis Hamilton has had the edge on him during his debut season at McLaren, but insists that he has made the changes to his qualifying set-up for tomorrow's Singapore Grand Prix here that will enable him to match his title rival.
The reigning world champion has been impressed by Hamilton's speed, particularly when trying to extract a single flying lap during qualifying, when the McLaren has at times been something of a handful.
“Even if the balance of the car is not 100 per cent, Lewis can be very quick,” Button said of the 2008 champion who he currently trails by 17 points.
“I need a car that is more stable than he does. When the car isn't right it makes me work very hard as a driver to get the car I want. In that respect Lewis is very strong.
“Overall I think it's been very close with Lewis. I outqualified him at Hockenheim and Monza, and even when I don't, within five laps I'm usually right behind him.
“But I am behind him, not in front. So qualifying is something that I still need to work on with my engineers.” Even before the Italian GP put him back into title contention, and in which victorious Fernando Alonso said of him “Jenson was driving superb, he was not doing a single mistake,” Button was his usual, calm self.
The great gamble to switch to McLaren from Brawn, where he had finally won the world championship in the surprise performance of last year, has paid off spectacularly.
The 30-year-old has proved to his detractors that on his day he can duke it out with Hamilton,
who is second in the standings behind Mark Webber ahead of tomorrow's race. And, the title success notwithstanding, he's proved to a new circle of team-mates in the paddock that he genuinely is the real deal. That 2009 wasn't a fluke.
There has not been much to choose between their individual performances, except when it comes to tigering a lap time out of a less than perfect car, in which case Hamilton has the upper hand. “I'm very happy with my races,” Button said. “I don't feel that I've made any real mistakes. My weakness is in finding the balance in qualifying.”
Arguably, of the five title contenders he is the one who has made the fewest mistakes.
Alonso crashed at Monaco and Spa, and made a rookie mistake at Silverstone in passing Robert Kubica illegally and then not immediately handing the place back; Hamilton messed up at Monza; Webber in Australia and Valencia; Vettel in Turkey, Hungary and Spa. Button, meanwhile, has kept out of trouble, and won two races, further vindicating his decision to switch sides.
“I'm very, very happy with the decision that I made,” he said. “I have made a lot of wrong decisions but I'm really happy with the one to move to McLaren.”