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Mat Coch writes:
Up and down the pit lane drivers and teams are scratching their heads as they desperately try to understand the 2012 spec tyres. This is especially true of Jenson Button, who has struggled since the Malaysian Grand Prix as he tries to come to grips with the Pirelli rubber.
"I've found them very difficult to understand," Button admitted ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix. "That's why we've tried a few new things year in Canada and Monaco and places like that because I felt that I needed to find a bit more of a direction with the tyres."
Those changes backfired, Button left floundering in both events and ultimately failing to finish in Monaco after tripping over Heikki Kovalainen's Caterham. The pair had been battling for position, a sign of just how desperate Button's plight had been.
However, the 32-year-old feels that the raw pace is there, and cites Lewis Hamilton's performances as proof that the car is fundamentally sound, it's simply a case of extracting the full potential from the tyres.
"Most of the problems this year have been in and out of the range that (the tyres) work," Button explained. "You try and drive gentle with them to look after them they drop out the range and end up damaging the tyre more than actually if you keep them in the range and are aggressive with the tyres."
In dry weather the 2009 world champion believes he's now more or less on top of the tyres, having learned from the Monaco and Canadian races. "We reverted back to what we had at the start of the year for Valencia and that's where we started being more competitive," he said. "The last race was better because I feel that the parts that we put on the car worked for us and I think maybe they're getting the tyres to work more in the dry conditions."
In Germany Button proved he still has the pace, chasing and catching Alonso after starting down the order thanks to a poor qualifying. "Our wet problems are still there, which we've had for a few races and it's really hurt us."
However come race day, and dry conditions, Button's performance improved. He closed a nine second gap to Alonso at the front, and only burned his tyres out in the final stint by chasing the Ferrari. "For a lot of that stint Fernando and Sebastian knew they had to do 27 laps on their tyres. I knew that as well but I had to try something to overtake Fernando," he explained.
"If I did the same as those two it would have ended first, second and third at the end of the race and none of us would have overtaken. I knew Fernando was saving his tyres in the last sector and the only way for me to actually overtake him was to push like hell and maybe make him make a mistake in the first sector.
"I think if I did get past him he would have ended up driving like I was and I would have been the one in control cruising around looking after my tyres."
As it was Button ended up defending against Vettel. The German got by on the penultimate lap though he was ultimately penalised after leaving the confines of the circuit to complete the move. Vettel claimed he was attempting to avoid an incident, an argument neither the stewards not Button accepted.
"He had room when he was next to me," Button countered. "That's why I had oversteer on the exit as I was leaving him room.
"If you look at the throttle trace he goes on the throttle very early - unusually early," Button continued. "There's a rule that says you can't get an advantage off the circuit which is what he gained. The rule is what it is and it's obviously why he got the penalty."
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