Jenson Button has given McLaren a much-needed boost in its bid to beat Force India in the 2014 Formula 1 constructors’ championship after finishing fifth in yesterday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
McLaren had entered the race weekend full of optimism, so much so that qualifying seventh and eighth was bitterly disappointing to the management at the team.
However, Button managed to salvage a good result in the race on Sunday after taking advantage of the wet conditions and the early safety car period.
The race was started behind the pace car before being red flagged for 20 minutes due to the wet weather. Once it restarted, the track dried as the cars continued to circulate behind Bernd Maylander, with the race eventually restarting on lap ten.
By this time, the track was dry enough to warrant intermediate tires, with Button the first to take to the pit lane. With the rest of the field waiting before making the same call, he was able to jump up to third place behind the two Mercedes drivers once all had made the switch.
Ultimately, Button could not fend off the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, but in fifth place, he has drawn McLaren to within one point of Force India in the constructors’ championship.
The race was overshadowed by Jules Bianchi’s accident late on, which left the Frenchman with severe head injuries. He remains in hospital in a critical condition. After the checkered flag, Button spoke only of Bianchi.
“For me, the race doesn’t really matter today,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything of Jules’ accident, but the most important thing to say is that all our thoughts are with him, his family, and his team right now.
“It’s an accident that you hope never happens in Formula 1.”
Button’s teammate, Kevin Magnussen, finished the race in 14th place after making an extra pit stop due to a problem with his steering wheel.