LONDON, October 29 – Defending F1 world champion Jenson Button may be 42 points behind Fernando Alonso in this year's title race, but he has no intention of giving up while even the slimmest chance of glory survives.
The 30-year-old Englishman, who joined McLaren after lifting the drivers’ crown with Brawn GP last year, will return to Brazil, where he clinched his title, with nothing less than an amazing turnaround in his sights.
"I’ve always said that I will fight until it’s mathematically impossible," he confirmed this week, on the eve of the final two races that will decide the outcome of this year’s closely fought championship race.
"Sure, looking at it written down on paper, you’ve got to admit it’s a long shot — but I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I chose not to go for it, and then circumstances transpired to give me a full run at the title.
"So, for me, the situation’s the same: I’ll be fighting until it’s no longer possible for me.
"In Formula One, you just never know — it’s totally possible that I could win at Interlagos, take home maximum points and have none of the other title contenders finish. If it’s another wet race, that could easily happen.
"Basically, you learn early on in this sport that it’s not over until it’s over."
Many observers had expected Button to throw in his title towel and concentrate on supporting McLaren team-mate and fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton after finishing only a disappointing 12th in last Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix.
Instead, the vastly experienced and studious driver has decided to give himself another chance of defending his title by declaring himself a threat to everyone in what promises to be a thrilling Brazilian race.
More than anyone, Button knows that a 42-points deficit is a massive disadvantage when only a maximum of 50 points are available for winning the last two races.
He has faith, at least, in his McLaren team’s hard work in development of the car for the final two races.
"Our performance has been a little bit up and down recently," he said.
"We nearly had the pace to win in Monza, we looked faster than the Red Bulls in Singapore, and our race pace was very good at Suzuka.
"So it’s difficult to say precisely where we are. In Korea, we looked extremely quick during all the practice sessions only to see that pace narrow in qualifying and the race.
"So I think we have every reason to still feel optimistic.
"For Brazil, we’re bringing more updates to the car. That’s something that’s always impressed me about this team — the pace of development is just incessant, and everybody is so determined to make the car faster.
"It’s a track that should suit us, so I’m already looking forward to it."
Button knows he will face a fierce challenge, too, from Hamilton, who is 21 points behind Spain’s Alonso in the title race. Alonso is challenging for his third world title and his first, in his maiden season, with Ferrari.
Hamilton, who finished a fighting second in Korea, believes the pressure is off him, as the man doing the chasing, but intense for the championship leaders Alonso and Australian Mark Webber of Red Bull.
He said: "I think clearly the pressure is on those guys. We are in a strong position, Fernando is quite a bit ahead, and I could have done with the extra seven points (for winning) but I can still catch them up.
"Korea was a great race, and very exciting for me and I love races like that. It didn’t dry up fully but we made a good pit call, the team did a great job — but we are not quite quick enough at the moment."