On January 1 Jenson Button officially became a McLaren driver – and the team has wasted no time in making the most of its latest asset.
It started the year with a bank-holiday press release celebrating Button’s appearance in the New Year’s Honours list on the very first day he was contractually available to do promotional work for the team.
The release included a picture of Button in silver shirt and Vodafone cap, leaning on the heavily-branded rear diffuser of the team car. It is a slightly unsettling sight after his seven years wearing white for BAR, Honda and then Brawn GP.
Consider McLaren’s new territory well and truly staked out.
And today, the first working day of the new year, the team has released a Q&A with both its drivers, stressing its key messages for 2010.
It emphasises the presence of the last two world champions on the books at Woking, the expectation of a good working relationship between the pair, and the team’s determination to retain the drivers’ championship. It does this while prudently refusing to talk up the prospects for the MP4-25 until it has been through its paces out on track.
Button says that the move to McLaren represents “a big cultural change” for him – but also describes his move as exhilarating.
He said: “But, honestly, I really cannot wait to get out to Valencia and get my first run in the MP4-25 – I think that’s when it will finally sink in that I’m a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton says his priority at the moment is to get his hands on the car – after his experience with the MP4-24, which proved to be significantly less competitive in testing than was anticipated, it will be an important moment.
He said: “You can never take competitiveness for granted in Formula 1 – we saw that last year – so our common goal has to be to make MP4-25 a winning proposition as quickly as possible.
“Only once we’ve achieved that can we start looking at winning races and then, eventually, the world championship.”
The full Q&A
Jenson Button, 2009 Formula 1 World Champion – You’re now officially a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver – how does it feel?
Obviously, it’s fantastic to be part of one of the most famous names in Formula 1. But it’s also exhilarating: I’d been at the same team for seven years so this is a big cultural change for me, and something that I’m really looking forward to. There are a lot of new faces to remember and lots of names to learn – and that’s all got to be done alongside the engineering and limited testing we have ahead of the 2010 season. But I’m loving every minute of it – the atmosphere within the team feels fantastic, and I’ve already started to feel at home here. I can’t wait to get out in the fantastic new car the team has built for me!
Where do your priorities lie over the next four weeks?
Having no testing until the first week of February is something of a mixed blessing – it gives me the time to really get to know the guys at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, and to properly integrate myself into the team – which I am absolutely committed to doing – but, equally, it’s another month without any running in the car – and getting miles under my belt will be crucial ahead of the first race. So, it’s only natural that there will be a lot of factory-based work for the next few weeks. I’ll be starting to work with my engineers, who are a fantastic bunch of guys. But, honestly, I really cannot wait to get out to Valencia and get my first run in the MP4-25 – I think that’s when it will finally sink in that I’m a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver.
2010: a new year – how are you planning the successful defence of your world title?
Obviously, my aim is to keep the number one on my car for as long as possible! But, at the moment, it’s a little bit too early to start talking about the world championship. The backbone of any title challenge is built on good preparation, hard word, focus and dedication. And the hard work starts here – the next 10 weeks could well largely dictate the destiny of the 2010 world championship, so it’s crucial that we start testing very strongly and that we never let up. I’m more motivated than ever to work with the team and my engineers, and I’ve extremely positive for the year ahead.
Lewis Hamilton, 2008 Formula 1 World Champion – How have you been preparing for the 2010 season
I’ve been mainly training and trying to keep fit. At the end of the 2009 season, I promised myself that I would aim to be 100 per cent fit and focused on the new year, so I’ve been working hard. When I’m not training, I’ve just been at home in Geneva, preparing for Christmas and the new year.
Are you looking forward to trying the new car for the first time?
Yes, I’m excited and can’t wait to see it and test it. Hopefully, it’s going to be great for our team next year. I’ll be working closely with my engineers and the team to make sure we all hit the ground running with the new car. You can never take competitiveness for granted in Formula 1 – we saw that last year – so our common goal has to be to make MP4-25 a winning proposition as quickly as possible. Only once we’ve achieved that can we start looking at winning races and then, eventually, the world championship.
Have you had much of a chance to speak to Jenson yet?
Not yet, unfortunately. Our paths haven’t really crossed since he was announced at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes back in November. We’ve both been to MTC for our seat fittings – but they were on different days. The first time we’ll start working together is later this month, when we’ll both be at Woking together, then we’ll have the launch and the first test. We’ll be sharing the pre-season testing equally, and it will be important to keep a crossover of information between us to make sure we are both pulling in the right direction.