• Button warns McLaren must qualify on front row
• Lewis Hamilton says pressure has lessened as title hopes fade
Jenson Button has summed up the apparent hopelessness of his cause as he looks to defend his world title by saying: “If you look at the table what I have got to do is win while pretty much all of the other drivers have got to crash into each other. But I’ll give that a go.”
Button trails by 42 points with a maximum of 50 available. The chances of his McLaren team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, look brighter on paper, because he is only 21 points behind the leader, Fernando Alonso. But the McLarens looked off the pace again in both the morning and afternoon practice sessions.
At least that allows them to go into the penultimate race of the season in a relaxed frame of mind. “I have got to go and have fun, just enjoy myself and see what result we can bring back,” Button said. “This is a fun circuit to race on. I really enjoyed racing here in the past. Last year was a rollercoaster so I would really like to have a good race here. You have to aim for a victory.”
It was here that Button clinched the 2009 title. But he said: “I was a mess last year at this point of the season. It was pretty stressful, especially being in Brazil in my team-mate’s home country. But the McLaren was super quick here last year even when they didn’t have a very competitive car, so I think we can still qualify well. I think we need to qualify on the front row. That’s the important thing. If we don’t qualify on the front row it is very difficult.”
Hamilton, too, feels the pressure has been lifted because few people think he will win the title now. “I think the pressure goes down as you go down the list,” he said. “When you are leading the championship you can lose it or win it, so most of the pressure is on you. The guy chasing you has a slightly easier job so I would say myself and Jenson probably have an easier, a less intense pressure, than maybe the others do.”
But his old competitive instincts returned when he added: “A win here would be the icing on the cake. I have absolutely no misconceptions or thoughts that it is going to be easy. I know this weekend is going to be as tough as it’s ever been but I am ready for it. I feel like I have prepared myself in the best way I possibly could. I have done so much training the last couple of weeks. I feel good. I feel fit. I feel I am in the best position I can be.”
Hamilton and Button were third and fourth behind the Red Bulls in the morning’s session, with Robert Kubica (Renault) fifth and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) sixth. In the afternoon session Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel again finished ahead of Mark Webber, his team-mate, at the top of the timings. But this time the Ferraris of Alonso and Felipe Massa, who had been 13th and 14th in the morning, fared better, coming third and fifth respectively, separated by Hamilton but with Button back in seventh.