Jenson Button described scoring a podium finish in Brazil today as ‘a great way to end the year’. The Brit took third place from Fernando Alonso about ten laps from the end of the grand prix, and finished in that position, behind the two Red Bull drivers.
For Button’s McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton however, the season ended prematurely when he stopped on Lap 46 with a gearbox failure.
“I couldn't really get the soft tyre working around here – we had massive degradation on each set – and that prompted the decision to run two sets of Primes in my final two stints,” said Button, looking back on his race in Sao Paulo today. “My pace on the Prime was great – and using two sets really meant I could find a good balance and work out where the grip was.
“Earlier in the race, it was disappointing to be passed by Fernando [Alonso]. Out of Turn Five, I saw lots of debris on the circuit, and I didn't know what it was. I didn't want to drive over it, and I couldn't pull to the left because Fernando was there, so I had to back out of it and fall behind. It was a pretty easy move for Fernando to make after that.
“But the Prime was working really well and that helped me chase Fernando down in the final stint and pass him out of Turn Three. Ideally, I wanted to get him into Turn One, because it's more fun to pass someone without using DRS, but I set him up and got him out of Turn Three after getting a good run along the straight.
“We gave it everything today – and a podium is a great way to end the year. I've had 12 podiums from this season's 19 Grands Prix – and I didn't finish two of them due to reliability issues. All in all, it's been a good, consistent season for us.
“There are a lot of positives to take away from this year. We'll have a strong winter and come out fighting from the first race. We've just got to start the season a bit more strongly, that's all, and that's what we'll be aiming to do. We want to make it hard for Red Bull in 2012.
“Finally, I want to say a big thank-you to the whole team – we've really grown together this year. I really feel like I'm part of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes family now: there's an awful lot of passion in our organisation, and I'm proud to be part of it.”
Hamilton described how the gearbox problem unfolded, thanked his team for their work throughout the year, and vowed to make 2012 his own.
“At the start I wanted to avoid any aggro, and that meant I lost a position to Fernando,” he said, recalling what happened after the five red lights went out. “After that I had reasonably decent pace, and I was able to stay close to Fernando and Jenson until I encountered a gearbox problem.
“It occurred quite early on – I was having problems with first and second – and it meant I started losing quite a lot of time and Fernando and Jenson were able to pull away from me. The problem meant I stopped being able to make good, clean gearshifts. Then I lost seventh, and then the whole thing just let go.
“Of course, it's not the way I'd like to have ended the season, but it wasn't so bad. I enjoyed my race while it lasted. I was challenging Felipe and I was hoping I'd get him, but then the gearbox failure stopped me.
“It's been a long year, and I want to say a huge thank-you to the team. They've never given up, and they've worked incredibly hard all season. We didn't get the ultimate result we wanted, but we had some great times along the way.
“I'll be attacking next season; 2012 will be my year.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh praised both of his drivers for their efforts today, and also emphasised how much the team will want to come out on top next season.
“Today we saw yet another brilliant performance from Jenson, who has driven magnificently all season but particularly in the second half of it,” he said. “It was his eighth podium finish in the past nine grands prix – and the odd race out in that splendidly consistent sequence was the Korean Grand Prix, in which he finished a fighting fourth.
“Today he drove cleanly, shrewdly and patiently – but forcefully too – and the way he optimised his pace on the Prime tyre was masterful. He drove his two final stints on the Prime, in fact, which enabled him to hunt down Fernando's Ferrari in the closing stages of the race to take a beautifully judged third place.
“Lewis drove extremely well today too, but unfortunately he was let down by gearbox failure. Quite early on, we noticed a loss of oil pressure, then he lost seventh gear, and then he lost all drive and was forced to call it a day. But prior to that he was improvising intelligently and never gave up. Moreover, his typically combative approach played a significant part in the afternoon's entertainment, and surely thrilled TV viewers worldwide.
“Lewis has had a challenging year – but his gutsy performances here and, in particular, in Abu Dhabi, where he took his third win of the season, represent an eloquent testimony to an emphatic return to form on his part. He's already focusing on 2012, and I'm sure he'll prepare for the new season with his customary determination and will to win.
“The same can be said for all at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines, in fact. We've been concentrating our energies on MP4-27 for some time now, and we'll maintain that intensive effort throughout the winter months.
“All things considered, 2011 was a pretty decent year for us – we finished second in the constructors' world championship, 122 points ahead of the third-placed team and 332 points ahead of the fourth-placed team – but we aim to win outright.
“Next season we intend to do just that.”