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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Button optimistic for 2012

Jenson Button believes McLaren have built a solid base on which to hopefully launch a more robust championship challenge in 2012.

Button could only finish third in Sunday's season-ending clash in Brazil behind a Red Bull one-two spearheaded by Mark Webber, who took the chequered flag for the first time in 26 races. But the 31-year-old's form over the second half of the season has at least raised hopes McLaren can start off in the right direction next season, rather than on the back foot as was the case this year.

Button finished with eight podiums in the last nine races since his win in Hungary, trailing Sebastian Vettel by just 15 points during that run compared to the 107 points lost over the first 10 races. Asked where he and McLaren go from here, Button said: "Into a long winter, ready for next year. At this moment in time we shouldn't think too much about next year. We should celebrate what we've done this year."

He added: "It hasn't been perfect. These guys (Vettel and Webber) have been quicker than us, more consistent than us. But all round it's been a reasonable season. We've grown as a team together and we have a very good base going into 2012."

It was a disappointing end to the campaign for team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who retired on lap 46 with gearbox issues to trail Button by 43 points and Vettel by a staggering 165. Nevertheless, he found it within himself to make peace with Felipe Massa after the race at Interlagos to end their feud that has overshadowed this season.

The duo collided six times on track this season, one of which saw them embroiled in a war of words in Singapore.

It appeared as if they would go into the winter with their animosity towards one another continuing to simmer. Instead, Hamilton proved to be the bigger man as he made the first move, approaching Massa in Ferrari's hospitality unit and giving him a hug.

"It was good to have a nice chat with Felipe after the race," said Hamilton. "I have great respect for him and I'm already looking forward to racing him again next year."

Massa was at least grateful to Hamilton for offering the olive branch, admitting he would never have done so as he continued to maintain his innocence.

The Brazilian said: "I want to say I was pleased Lewis came round to see me while I was talking to the journalists. It was a very nice gesture on his part. I've never had anything against him. I always respected him, even this year after everything that has happened. I think it is nice of him to come to me because it was never going to come from me, because I did nothing wrong during the year."

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