Button: Fuji reliability woes cost me first WEC podium
Ex-Formula 1 champion Jenson Button believes he lost a likely first FIA World Endurance Championship podium finish at Fuji as a result of more SMP Racing reliability trouble.
Button led the first hour at Fuji by virtue of making his first pitstop late, switching directly to slick tyres on a drying track shortly after the end of a first-hour safety car period.
The #11 BR Engineering BR1-AER Button shares with Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin soon fell behind the Toyotas, but was in the fight for third until alternator trouble struck in the penultimate hour, resulting in a 12-minute trip to the garage.
Button said he felt the problem robbed the #11 crew of a strong shot at beating the #1 Rebellion car to the final step on the podium behind the dominant Toyotas.
“The start of the race was a lot of fun,” said the Englishman. “We had some good fights.
“I think we made the right strategy call on the tyres to go [directly] from wets to dries, but the safety car hurt us and put us behind the Rebellion.
“We were leading for eight laps, which was nice. We had a few issues in the race with balance, and then we had an alternator failure. We had to change it, which cost us eight laps.”
Asked if third was on the cards, he replied: “Yeah. We were 15 seconds behind [car #1]; I don’t know why but their refuelling is five or six seconds faster than ours.
“I don’t think either [SMP] car has [a clean run], we’ve always had reliability issues. It would be nice before the end of the year to get a result.
“If we have pace [in Shanghai], we have a good chance to be on the podium if the reliability is good. It should be good a fight between all four [Rebellion and SMP] cars.”
Rebellion driver Neel Jani, who along with Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna took a first WEC podium of the year in third, said he was disappointed the Swiss team’s fight with SMP came to a premature end.
“It’s a shame they broke down,” Jani told Motorsport.com. “If they didn’t break down it would’ve been tough until the end. I really hope they get their reliability under control, because then there’s a race between us.
“They looked quick at the very end, he [Button] was quite quick. I don’t know if they would have beaten us, but for sure it would have been close.”
Menezes rues "stupid mistake"
Rebellion only managed to get one of its Gibson-powered R-13s to the finish as the #3 car was eliminated when Gustavo Menezes speared off the road under the safety car.
“It was a stupid mistake to be honest, it shouldn’t have happened,” Menezes told Motorsport.com. “We lost a lot of tyre temperature during the safety car, it was a little bit exaggerated the last two laps, I don’t know why.
“Nobody else made the mistake. I put the throttle down, the wheels spun, and it just sent the car into the wall. It’s a shame.”
SMP likewise only got one car to the finish, as the #17 BR1 succumbed to a fuel system problem late on, having already been ruled out of podium contention by a lost wheel.
#3 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R-13: Mathias Beche, Gustavo Menezes, Thomas Laurent
Photo by: JEP / LAT Images
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