Jenson Button has come out with the tough talk in the lead-up to this week’s season-opening Bahrain GP, and while he has gone as far as predicting a close title fight, he is also confident about his prospects as defending champion.
Speaking with The Mirror, Button said: "My winter has been an incredible learning experience – joining Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has provided me with exactly the sort of challenge I needed. I have put every effort into working with the team, my engineers and learning about my car to ensure that we start the season in Bahrain in the best possible shape.
"Even after four weeks of testing though, it’s incredibly difficult to predict the order ahead of the new season. There are a number of teams and drivers who appear to be in the hunt, and, as with the start of every new season, it will be fascinating to see who emerges as the team to beat.
"I’ve never known a team work as hard as we have done over the winter – I’ve spent more time with my engineers this winter than I have before any other season, and I feel very, very comfortable about my preparations," he continued.
"I’m really looking forward to getting into my car on Friday morning in Bahrain and knowing that I’m the world champion," he continued. "It’s a responsibility and an honour – but it’s something I’m going to enjoy for as long as I can. I don’t want to lose that number from my car!"
Tough talk from the reigning champion! But how is he going to fare with the attention all focused on Michael Schumacher’s return?
No one’s going to give him an inch," Button said. "It’s great to be racing him on an even basis. We have had good races in the past – but then his  Ferrari was one second a lap faster all season.
"He will be a main competitor this year. He’s with a good team, they’ve won the championship, they know what to do. Lewis [Hamilton], I know, is pretty excited about racing Schumacher.
"He will still be the old Schumacher, he hasn’t lost it, he wouldn’t have come back unless he wants it again and his speed hasn’t changed."
Let’s expect a few on-track stoushes this season!
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