To say it has been a disappointing season thus far for McLaren driver Jenson Button is an understatement.
The 2009 Formula One champion has continued the same struggles he had in 2015. He finished last season 16th in the final F1 driver standings and through the first seven races that’s where he’s at thus far in the 2016 standings, as well.
The 36-year-old native of Great Britain has earned just five points since the start of the season.
Now it’s on to a brand new race and track, the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Europe at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan.
Things were starting to look up for Button in the three races before Montreal, with finishes of 10th at Sochi and back-to-back ninth-place outings at Catalunya and Monte Carlo.
But his last-place finish (22nd) at Montreal, dropping out just nine laps into the 70-lap race due to engine failure (for the second time this season) – was not what he anticipated coming into that race.
Now it’s on to a new challenge at Azerbaijan, with a new street course and renewed optimism that things may get back on track for Button and his team.
“After a disappointing end to what was a fairly positive weekend in Canada, I’m already relishing the prospect of the next race,” Button said in a media release. “The Baku City Circuit looks pretty cool – especially as the city center has so much history attached to it, yet we’ll be roaring over the cobbles there at over 300km/h (186mph) in the middle of the city walls.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ve transformed the area to accommodate a Grand Prix race. I’ve heard good things from Fernando (McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso) about the layout too, with some really exciting narrow sections mixed in with wider areas that should be promising for overtaking.
“It’ll be tough on the car with its long, fast straight, strong loads on the ERS and high fuel consumption, so we need to buckle down and work hard to get our package set up as quickly as possible for the demands of this circuit.”
The new track, coupled with limited time and practice and no prior race data, could make this a more wide open affair than usual. But at the same time, Button and his team are also working on a strategy that they hope helps them stand out from the rest of the race field.
“In terms of things like strategy, tires, temperatures, of course we have a lot of simulator data – a few of the guys in the team have visited and already have a pretty good handle on the conditions – but until we get there, it’s all a bit of unfamiliar,” Button said. “Having a new circuit on the calendar definitely does spice things up a bit and puts everyone back on a more level playing field, at least initially, so I’m looking forward to the challenge of a new track.”
It’s important to stay positive and keep looking forward, Button noted.
“It’s imperative we bounce back quickly from the disappointment of Canada,” he said. “And the fact we go to a completely new Grand Prix means the focus will rapidly shift from one to the other. There’s definitely a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement for the next race.
“We’re working hard to keep improving race to race and despite the blip in Canada, hopefully we can continue seeing gains – however small – in the next few crazy weeks of back-to-back Grands Prix.”