Tuesday 20 March 2018

Melbourne opener is a plus for Button

JENSON Button has hailed Melbourne's Albert Park as the "perfect place" for the start of the new Formula One season as he bids to become a three-time winner at the venue.

Melbourne had traditionally been the scene-setter for many years until Bahrain earned the honour in 2010.

However, the Gulf state lost its curtain-raising status 12 months ago in the wake of violent anti-government protests that saw the race cancelled.

Although back on the calendar this year, it does not figure until late next month, affording Melbourne the chance to open the door on a new campaign once again.

As one of the more popular destinations in F1, the Australian park setting has become a firm favourite over the years.

Asked as to what makes it so special, Button said: "It is a special race. You step off the plane after a long, cold European winter and it's usually very sunny and the people are incredibly welcoming.

"The circuit is a nice challenge too. It's not a particularly technical track, but the surface is always rubbering in across the whole race weekend, and it's a place that encourages nip-and-tuck racing.

"For a street track, it's got a really good flow, you can really find a good rhythm, and it's got some fast corners too, which is unusual for a road course.

"The new rules have definitely made it a more competitive place. It's easier to pass here now than it ever was.

"The potential of a second DRS zone will be a real benefit. Last year, along the startline, wasn't quite enough for overtaking. I think we'll get more benefit from a second zone.

"Finally, the walls around here are close enough to keep your mind focused. I can't remember a race here that wasn't eventful or surprising in some way, so it's the perfect place to kick off the season."

Button's praise is enhanced by the fact he won with Brawn GP in 2009 en route to claiming the world title, and again a year later with McLaren - just two races into his current spell with the team.

Appreciably, they are among his Melbourne highlights, adding: "My first grand prix was here way back in 2000.

"It was just a buzz to be in Formula One. It was pretty intense, the whole weekend just flew past pretty quickly.

"I then had pole here in 2006, another good memory, but the two most significant memories for me were in 2009, winning from pole for Brawn GP.

"It was a momentous race for the team and it felt so sweet to give them such a reward.

"Then winning here in 2010, just an incredible day. That was my first win for McLaren, which was completely unexpected, but a really significant result for me personally."

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