2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button said his first day competing in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship was ‘very strange’ after struggling to find pace in his Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren 720S GT3.
Button, who is making his GT3 debut at the Silverstone 500 alongside long-time friend Chris Buncombe, had a tough time in qualifying as the pair could only qualify in 18th place – compared to fourth for the sister car of James Baldwin and Michael O’Brien.
“It’s been very strange actually. We both struggled [on Saturday], and it would have been good to have had a day of testing to really understand the issues that we have. We were just left waiting for the car when you turn in; the front starts shuddering and you just can’t drive the car how you want. It’s not like a different driver style works for the car that you have underneath you,” Button explained.
“You watch the two cars on track and with the feedback it’s very different to what we have [to our team-mates]. We don’t understand yet what’s going on, but the important thing is that a car is near the front. Hopefully they can have a good race, score some points and move further up into the top three.”
Despite the struggles for him personally, Button has been delighted with the performance of his team this year – which made the switch to racing in Britain after debuting in its current guise in GT World Challenge Europe with a Honda NSX in 2019 – and praised the performance of Baldwin and O’Brien as the pair made the step into GT3.
He added: “It’s been really good, the whole year. I haven’t been working with them on site, but I’ve been doing what I can, like debriefs with the drivers, and it’s always very interesting to hear their comments – they have very good feedback for guys that don’t really have that much experience.
“It’s good to see. I think they’ve made good progress this year as drivers and the team have done a fantastic job as well; working with these guys, they’ve got great heads on them and they are mentally in the right place. They work well with each other.
“From the word go, [James] was quick. Really impressive, and I think it’s great to see him doing well and gaining in conifdence all the way, but also Mike has as well. Everyone talks about how well they’re doing. I think they just work so well as a team which is important in a silver-silver line-up.”
For Button himself, the Silverstone 500 is his first time behind the wheel since his Super GT campaign last year which warranted a pair of podiums alongside Naoki Yamamoto. While making his return to racing in British GT, he’s looking to move into Europe next year, with the ultimate aim of racing at Le Mans again – after a DNF in his last appearance in an SMP Racing LMP1 in 2018.
“We want to race in Europe next year – that was the aim. The future then has to be to race at Le Mans. I think, for every endurance racing team that is the dream. In what category? I wouldn’t know yet, but to get to Le Mans would be insane. It would be amazing, and I think that’s something that we should all work towards,” he said.
Many thanks to Dan Mason for conducting the interview with Jenson.
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