sport

Button: F1 tougher than ever

Jenson Button believes the current Formula One field is the strongest he has experienced throughout his 15 years in the sport.

Since making his debut in 2000, Button has now competed in 250 grands prix, ensuring he is the most experienced driver in the sport at present.

A number of stellar names have naturally come and gone over the years Button has been involved, but the 34-year-old feels the current crop has talent in abundance.

McLaren star Button believes the reason behind that is due to the complexity of the cars, and the intelligence required to cope with its various different functions.

"The way the sport is now there are so many drivers that you drive up behind and think 'This is going to be a good battle'," said Button, eighth quickest in practice for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

"It's not like there are two or three drivers in the sport any more who are competitive.

"Ten years ago I could sort of pick a handful of drivers where you thought 'Wow! I just made a mega move on him and that means a lot and I'll remember that for a long time'.

"Now three quarters of the grid are immensely talented, and not just in terms of speed.

"It's the way they work with their engineers and how they look at every single detail.

"A lot of it is the regulations and the way things have been going with the tyres and power units.

"We have to really look in depth at certain details to get the better of other drivers.

"I feel every driver has improved themselves over the last few years.

"There's so much talent in the sport now. There's more talent now in Formula One than there ever has been - or at least since I've been racing in F1."

And if there is one driver who has impressed Button this season it has been Daniel Ricciardo, promoted over the winter from Toro Rosso to Red Bull as replacement for the retired Mark Webber.

Although with only a fourth place to his name from the last race in Bahrain, Ricciardo was disqualified from second in Australia due to a fuel irregularity with his car and was running fourth in Malaysia until a bungled late pit-stop wrecked his race.

"It's obviously not the most competitive car at the moment - a lot of it is the (lack of power on the) straights - but Daniel's done a good job," assessed Button.

"It's always more difficult for a four-time world champion (Sebastian Vettel) in that situation when the car's not strong.

"It's a lot easier for a guy that's come up to a team and he's racing alongside a four-time world champion. He's excited and his aim is to obviously beat that guy.

"For Sebastian I'm sure it's frustrating he can't get near a win, so I'm sure there are very different mindsets within the team.

"But Daniel has been aggressive, he's been strong in the races, so he's done a good job."