In the first day of Jenson Button’s comeback, he completed second practice solidly midfield and within a tenth of his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne. His early laps in the morning were around 2sec adrift, but he quickly adapted. He came out of it all the familiar bubbly Jenson, but admitted there’s still work to do before he’s driving to his and the car’s full potential. Afterwards, he talked the watching world through it.
“I’m braking for corners and it just feels like I’m going to be in the barriers so it’s strange initially but I’m definitely getting to grips with it. High speed, yeah, is just so much fun, so much… you know, the first part of the swimming pool is flat now. I can’t remember the last time it was flat, probably hasn’t ever been for me. That’s great. Turn three is a lot of fun as well, turning into Casino but there are braking areas where there’s a lot of work still to do. To get confidence, to brake hard. It’s the old beginners thing in F1 where you brake early, you lift off early, you turn in, you accelerate early and you get understeer. There’s a lot to come and hopefully I can sort myself out by Saturday morning after I’ve been through all the data. Previously, if you’d braked that late you’d lock up and be in the wall. I’m arriving at the corners and still thinking of the last seven years.
“Physically, my HANS device is in quite a different position in the car and is digging in. And it’s very tight on my collarbone. My collarbone sticks out a lot. I’m sure I’ll have a tiny bit of a sore neck tonight but apart from that it’s fine. Easy.
“It was funny as I did the install lap this morning. I had a little giggle to myself into Mirabeau. Yeah, it’s a lovely experience to drive these cars. Have I missed it? I haven’t missed it, no. But when you jump in the car you definitely enjoy the moment. I’ve really enjoyed practice, the long runs, the short runs but FP2 was a bit of a struggle to really find my feet with the car.
“I haven’t really thought about where I’d hope to finish. I don’t expect to be 0.1sec off a Mercedes in qualifying. The guys understand where I’m coming from in what I’m feeling and hopefully we’ll be able to change the car and give me a good step-up in performance.
“In FP1 as soon as I got in everything felt very natural. The weirdest thing is probably when you let a car past because you look at the size of it and it’s gigantic! And then you feel really uncomfortable because you think ‘OK, maybe I am too close to the barriers.’ But it fits like a glove.
“I drove rallycross car in January. That’s all I’ve done since November. I thought it would feel weird, but it doesn’t. The greater grip of FP2 made it feel a bit weird.
“I definitely stepped away at the right time. But today I really enjoyed it – because the cars are better to drive and because I haven’t done it for so long. There’s not much time to find in the fast stuff and I tapped the barriers a couple of times, so it’s good to know I’m pushing the limits.
“But whatever I do this weekend will be forgotten by everyone by Monday. I will just enjoy doing my best and making memories for me. It’s fun working with Fernando’s engineers, Mark and Will.”