Jenson Button: “I braced myself for the hit”

Jenson Button felt his Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was his best race of the season as the McLaren-Honda driver finished twelfth on Sunday, although his afternoon was slightly compromised by a clash in the pit lane with Valtteri Bottas during the first round of pit stops.

Button was just entering his pit box when Bottas’ Williams Martini Racing team let the Finnish driver go after his own pit stop, only for Bottas to hit the rear tyre of the McLaren, something Button was bracing himself for.

“That was probably my best race of the year,” said Button. “At my first pit-stop, I saw that Valtteri was going to get released – which his team shouldn’t really have done, as I was pulling into the pit-box – and I braced myself for the hit.

“It disrupted my stop and unsettled the boys quite a bit – the worst outcome for me was that I fell out of the DRS zone I’d been chasing to stay within all race. That has been our game-plan all year, and I lost time because of that.

“I’m happy with all we did today. I had to save fuel for the whole race, which hurt us and made things difficult, but I was still having fun out there. You wouldn’t think I’d have been able to keep a Williams-Mercedes behind for so long in the closing laps, because it was so much quicker in a straight line, but we could. That was a surprise, but a real positive to take away from today.”

Bottas finished on Button’s tail after taking the five-second penalty during his third pit stop, having already made a second to replace his damaged front wing, and feels the incident may ultimately be a blessing in disguise as the team aim to iron out any mistakes if they want to be genuine contenders next season.

“Of course that was not the way we wanted to finish the season,” reflected Bottas. “But in the end this could be good – it was a proper wake-up call that we really need to raise our game if we want to challenge for the wins next year.

“We all know the facts, we need to find big gains with the car during the winter, and there are operational things we need to do better. Everyone knows it and we are fully motivated to fix these things and have a much better season next year.”