Jenson Button is confident that Red Bull won’t enjoy the same level of dominance it did in the season opener last year, this time round.
The McLaren driver is hopeful that he and teammate Lewis Hamilton will be able to challenge Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber after positive signs during pre-season testing.
“Sebastian is still the favourite because he is the double world champion, but I feel that the field will be bunched up a lot more now,” Button told the Guardian. “Red Bull won’t have the advantage they had out of the blocks last season,” he added.
The 32-year-old is optimistic that the MP4-27 is performing how he and the team want.
“We’ve had a good winter in terms of reliability, apart from Saturday, and I feel we are making good progress with the car. There’s nothing I’m afraid of with the balance of the car. It listens to changes, which is really important with a motor car, [and] I’m very happy with the direction we’ve taken with the car and with the package we have.”
Meanwhile, Button isn’t ruling out a challenge from Ferrari, despite their obvious struggles.
“I’m sure Ferrari can find their way out of a sticky situation – if they’re in a sticky situation,” he added.
“I don’t really know where they are in terms of pace. [But] we’re all trying new things at the start of the year. One of us will get it right and I’m sure the others will follow suit in the end. They’re obviously on the back foot, but I’m sure they’ll catch up. They have the resources, they have the expertise and they really want and need a good season in 2012.
“Winter testing is a strange one. We had such a bad winter last year [but], then again, we got to the first race and [McLaren team-mate] Lewis [Hamilton] finished second, so we had a good result. We’d all like a challenge from Ferrari.”