Emerson Fittipaldi, the successful Brazilian driver of the 70s, has tipped Jenson Button as a strong contender to match his own tally of two world championships come the end of the 2012 season.
“From what I can see, it will be between Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg. They are the big favourites,” the 65-year-old is quoted by Brazil’s Globo.
“Obviously, if Ferrari improves, then Fernando (Alonso) is spectacular. Lewis Hamilton is very aggressive, very fast, but I think Jenson is very clean, easier on his equipment and the tyres. I think this (season) is best suited to his (Button’s) style,” said Fittipaldi.
McLaren’s Button, however, is not so sure, pointing out the unusually closely-packed 2012 grid, and the big role being played by the Pirelli tyres.
“You don’t know who is going to be your main opponent on Sunday,” Auto Motor und Sport quotes the 2009 world champion as saying. “It could be Red Bull, or Mercedes, or Ferrari, or Lotus or even Sauber,” he smiled. “So who do you focus on for the strategy?”
This weekend, F1 will find out whether the hot track temperatures in Bahrain will reshuffle the order. Button laughed when asked if it means McLaren will pull ahead of Mercedes this weekend: “We hope so, but we don’t know!”
Michael Schumacher, whose career stretches all the way back to 1991, said 2012 is the “closest season I’ve experienced”.
As for what happened in China, where his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg won from pole for the first time, the German admitted: “I really didn’t think that would happen.”
It is for that reason that Button warned against writing off F1’s reigning champions, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel said he is not expecting “miracles” in Bahrain, but he also said: “We still haven’t seen a team that is clearly above all the others.
“Maybe McLaren is the most consistent, but they didn’t do what you expected them to do in Shanghai …”