Jenson Button has said his battle with Red Bull's Mark Webber has extended beyond the racetrack as the McLaren driver fights a rearguard action to retain his world championship title.
Last season Button was in Webber's current position, going into the final races trying to defend a lead. So he knows how to play the mind games that were used on him a year ago. Webber has not won a race since the first week in August, and is well aware of this fact.
"Mark is pretty strong in the head," Button said. "Everybody plays mind games, though. I travelled over with Mark and it was fun - because I have been in his position. It's the little things like me saying: 'Are you feeling the pressure, mate?' You always get a reaction, even if they say: 'No, I'm not.'
"He's exactly as I was last year. It's fun to see how different people react - like the press conference where a Spanish guy asked Mark a question and you could tell from the tone that whatever they say, you can tell what that person is really feeling."
With only three races to go, Button trails Webber by 31 points, and as he is also 17 points behind the championship leader's team-mate, Sebastian Vettel, he admits he must beat both Red Bulls in Sunday's inaugural Korean grand prix if he is to stand any chance of retaining the title. Referring to his fellow McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, Button said: "We both need to win and our team-mate to finish second. The team has thrown a lot of stuff at these cars in the past three races. We would have been closer in Suzuka [Japan a fortnight ago] if things had worked. The new stuff was designed for here but we rushed it forward, so it should work better here." The McLarens will use their revamped rear wing on Sunday and as there are three long straights - all in the first sector - they believe they will be at least as fast as the Red Bulls in some areas of the race.
"I like the first sector but I am sure the Red Bulls will hate it," Button added. "It's definitely a McLaren-style first sector - heavy-braking long straights. The second sector is Red Bull territory but we will all be good around the last sector. We have three long straights with hairpins so it's perfect for overtaking. It's important to be near the front, but at turn three I think we will be four abreast.
"It's going to make for an exciting Sunday but we need to get a lot of info on Friday. We will spend the morning doing aero work and finding out that everything works and if it does work correctly - and I think it will - we will have a good step forward.
"Will [it] be level with the Red Bull? It's going to be difficult for everyone here working out what downforce levels to run because you have such long straights then a very tight section where you need a lot of downforce - in the straights you need less drag. An efficient car is going to be key."
Robert Kubica, the Renault driver who is eighth in the championship, believes this year's title will be won by either Webber or Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, who has won consecutive races before coming third in Japan last time out and trails the Australian by only 14 points.
Webber himself, who probably needs to win at least one of the remaining rounds to secure a first title, said he is not playing a calculating game. "All we can do is go out there and do our stuff, although if I win the next two races it's all over anyway, so it's up to me to keep doing what I'm doing," he said.
"The gap has been edging the right way in the last couple of races so I need to keep on with that. I just have to keep doing my best, and that's the most important thing. If I'm doing that then hopefully the results will take care of themselves." The double Formula One world champion Alonso put his past success with Renault in perspective by hailing the current season with Ferrari as his best ever.
"For me personally it has been a great 2010 championship, driving for a new team," the Spaniard said. "I've felt very comfortable with Ferrari.
So, now, in the last three races we will try and arrive in a position to fight for the championship in Abu Dhabi. Obviously, it would be nice to become champion this year. But even if we cannot do it, I will have great, great memories of 2010." (Guardian)