Ex-Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button is bracing himself for a trying outing at next month’s Fuji 500-mile Super GT race after slipping to second in the standings in Thailand.
Honda was reduced to the third-best manufacturer on Super GT’s last visit to Fuji in May, with the non-ballasted ARTA car finishing as its top runner in eighth.
Button and Team Kunimitsu squadmate Naoki Yamamoto could manage no better in ninth and the Englishman led calls for an explanation into the sudden drop in pace.
Speaking before Super GT’s return to the 4.5-km circuit, Button says he sees no reason why Honda would fare better this time around but insists his prime focus will be on the final part of the campaign, when Balance of Performance will play a smaller role.
Success ballast is reduced to half in the penultimate round at Autopolis and lifted all together for the season finale at Motegi.
“Fuji is going to be a difficult race and for a lot of cars it’s going to be tough,” Button told Motorsport.com. “Lexus is quick there so we just need to make sure we are in the best, the best Honda and hopefully beat the best Nissan so we can still score some points.”
“We weren’t competitive [last time out in Fuji]. We struggled, all Hondas struggled. The first Honda was eighth and we were ninth. It’s gonna be a difficult weekend but it’s a long race and people make mistakes as we see from this race.
“We have to see but for us the last three races we need to score big points. Fuji is going to be tough and you might see us fall back in the championship.
“Then Sugo, Autopolis and the last race, we need to be strong. I’m doing a lot of testing and simulator and Naoki also so we’ll be waiting for those races."
Troubled Thailand weekend
Button heads to the fifth round of the season after a difficult weekend at Buriram, where he struggled with tyre behaviour before an issue in pitstop left him and teammate Yamamoto outside the points.
“I think Honda struggled with the Bridgestone tyres because I was going backwards and backwards and I was 10th. Then I was catching the #17 car, the Keihin [Real Racing] car.
"I wasn't happy, but to be able to catch and overtake the lead Bridgestone Honda was okay.
“So we are running in ninth place before the pitstop, which when you look at the race could have been a good result because so many people had problems with wheelnuts, the Mugen car with the door.
“If we didn’t have the problem in the pitstops, we could have scored some good points.
"I think the Keihin car finished seventh and we were in front of them so that would have been some good points for us and we would have been leading the championship but we are not.”
Interview by Tomohiro Yoshita