After his first season with BAR in 2003, in which he finished ninth in the championship standings, Jenson Button wants regular podium finishes in 2004 and is thinking about the title in 2005. Button had two fourth place finishes this season but...
After his first season with BAR in 2003, in which he finished ninth in the championship standings, Jenson Button wants regular podium finishes in 2004 and is thinking about the title in 2005. Button had two fourth place finishes this season but the podium has so far remained elusive. The Englishman expects to be claiming a top-three finish on a regular basis next season and for BAR to be aiming for third in the constructors' standings.
BAR finished fifth in 2003 after a midfield fight with Jaguar and Toyota and a late showing from Sauber. In the next couple of years, Button believes it's not unrealistic to be thinking of winning the title.
"If, as is the plan, we're challenging for podiums in 2004 plus a possible win then there's no reason why we can't start challenging for the title in 2005," he said. "Things have moved forward very well over the past couple of years or so and I'm very confident that we can keep going in the same direction. By 2005 we need to be in a position to possibly win the world championship, then it will be down to us to put everything together in terms of having the right reliability and not making a mess of it."
After the 'big three' of Ferrari, Williams and McLaren, it was Renault that claimed fourth place in the constructors' in 2003. Button thinks reliability issues were BAR's weakness but is confident that the performance in Suzuka, where he finished fourth, is encouraging for next season.
"We had a slow down point around Monaco and Canada," he admitted. "But towards the end of the season we made some really positive steps forward. The only thing, perhaps, we were lacking was the reliability and that cost us quite a few points. However, both B.A.R and Honda did a few things in Japan which seemed to make a significant difference to our reliability, so that was encouraging at the perfect time to give everyone a big boost for next year."
With the departure of Jacques Villeneuve, Button is expected to take the role of team leader but he is not overly concerned about the situation. "The only extra pressure comes from myself," he stated. "Yes, it is a very different position for me but I've always wanted to head-up a team, so it's great. As soon as I realised that Jacques wasn't going to race in Suzuka, I felt the change. It was a great feeling knowing that my opinion really, really mattered and was very important."
"Although, as I've already said, it's been a very busy time for me since Suzuka, I've been to the factory as much as possible, giving my thoughts on the new car and so forth. So I'm enjoying the position very much and trying to give as much input as I can. I've now got a lot of experience of working with B.A.R and the team's got a better understanding of me. I'm enjoying the chance to go into a new season already established within a familiar set-up and that's vital as this is going to be a very important year for both B.A.R and myself."