Button sets his sights on podium

Button is looking ahead for Melbourne after finishing seventh in a frustrating season-opener in Bahrain earlier this month.

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MELBOURNE // After a disappointing start to his world championship defence in Bahrain, Jenson Button is hoping for a better showing in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix. But despite feeling "at home" with McLaren-Mercedes and fellow world champion Lewis Hamilton, the British driver said his new team would still be playing catch-up in Melbourne. "I think the Red Bulls are very strong, I think the Ferraris are very strong, and then it's probably us," said Button, a champion with Brawn GP.

"But I'm hoping with the circuit change and a few little updates we'll be closer to them and maybe challenging them here." Button started eighth and finished seventh in a frustrating season opener in Bahrain earlier this month, with teammate Hamilton in third, and it was not the way the world champion had envisaged the opening race of the campaign going. "The first race for us was difficult. I don't think the car suited Bahrain too well," said Button. "I think it will suit this circuit better. It's a lower downforce circuit so we have to wait and see."

Despite concerns, Button has taken comfort in his return to Albert Park, where he won from pole last year on the way to six victories in seven starts that ultimately led to the title. "A podium would be fantastic here [in Melbourne]. I think that has to be the aim. I think it's a possibility and you've got to set your sights pretty high," he said. Button's bid for a podium finish this year in Melbourne will start in daylight and end in twilight, something the Briton handled with aplomb last year despite complaints from drivers and his own personal misgivings about safety.

"It sounds petty, but it's not," he insisted. "It can be dangerous if you've got the sun in your eyes." * Reuters