Jenson Button today touched down in Australia with a smile on his face knowing he has a car to fight for this season’s Formula One world title.
The athlete in Button yesterday competed in a 10k road run in Japan as part of his build up towards this Sunday’s curtain-raising race to the 2012 campaign in Melbourne’s Albert Park.
For Button, team-mate Lewis Hamilton and all within McLaren, there is a general mood of optimism after a relatively successful pre-season.
Although the MP4-27 did not top the timesheet once on any of the 12 days spread across Jerez and Barcelona, anybody with an eye for detail could tell McLaren are ready for a championship push.
Last season Button and the Woking-based marque were forced to settle for distant runner-up positions in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships respectively to the all-conquering Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team.
On this occasion the title race would appear to be too close to call, in particular as Lotus and Mercedes are threatening to come flying out of the traps.
From Button’s perspective, after a turbulent winter for McLaren last year from which the team never really recovered despite three wins apiece for himself and Hamilton, the signs are good.
“Arriving in Melbourne I’m a lot happier than I was last year,” said Button.
“We’ve had a good winter in terms of reliability most of the time, except for my final day when the car had a hydraulics issue.
“But I feel we have made good progress with the car, and there’s nothing I’m afraid of with its balance. It listens to changes which is really important
“So I’m very happy with the direction we’ve taken and with the package we have on the car, very happy, and I’m happy with what we’ve achieved so far.
“As long as we find a good set-up with the new package we should be looking pretty good for the first race.
“So it’s been a really good winter. The whole team will say the same in terms of what’s been happening with the car.”
Button also claims to have his head “definitely in the right place”, so with the correct mental approach and with the car beneath him, half the battle has already been won ahead of the first shots being fired in anger this weekend.
“I feel in a very good place with the team, that I’ve a great bunch of engineers and mechanics around me,” said Button.
“There’s nothing I would look at and say ’that’s an area where we are weak’ or ’maybe that could be better’. It’s all gone right at the moment.”
Button has even taken on the services of nutritional specialists BeFit Monaco to assist him with his diet and ensure his body is receiving the right food when it needs it most.
Even at the age of 32, an old dog can learn new tricks as he said: “It sounds crazy but when you are at the top of any sport you’ve got to look for anything, to run through different things.
“Certain things work for certain people, can keep you positive and in the right frame of mind for when the time you need it within the car, and also out of the car.
“It’s all going really well. I’m enjoying it. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Adding to the sense of anticipation is the fact there is a greater air of uncertainty as to who has the early upper hand that surrounds the start to this season than many previously.
The two-time winner around Albert Park said: “It’s been very difficult to read pace over the winter because a lot of teams have been playing their cards close to their chests.
“I think it’s going to be extremely close, and I can’t wait to find out where we sit in the pecking order.”