Jenson Button wants Formula 1 title push with McLaren

By Sarah HoltBBC Sport at Sepang

McLaren's Jenson Button is optimistic he can mount a world-title challenge after finishing second behind Sebastian Vettel at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

A battling drive moved the Briton to within 24 points of leader Vettel with team-mate Lewis Hamilton third overall.

Button said it was "very important" to start his title bid, adding: "It gives me confidence. The feeling of the car is good and that is important to me.

"We can't let the Red Bulls have it all their own way for much longer."

After an eventful race in Sepang, Button now heads to next Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix as Vettel's closest challenger.

Compatriot Hamilton is four points behind Button in the championship after finishing eighth in Malaysia.

Hamilton actually crossed the line in seventh but was hit with a 20-second penalty for weaving in the build-up to a collision with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

McLaren plan to re-evaluate the updates they abandoned in Malaysia during Friday practice in Shanghai and Button is hopeful the team will again close the gap on Red Bull.

"This is again a step forward in terms of performance and it has to keep happening," added Button, 31.

"Hopefully we can take the fight to Red Bull because everyone wants to see that. Our aim is to challenge these guys but it's not that easy - they are very, very fast.

"At this moment in time, Sebastian is the person to beat. He has a 24-point lead and that is a lot from two races but there are still 17 to go.

"He's won two races out of two and nobody else has been as consistent. In terms of pace we are the second best but we need to find some improvements.

"They are in the pipeline but it's exciting for us and hopefully in China we can make a real good race of it."

Button arrived in Malaysia determined to better his sixth-place finish in Melbourne, where he lost position because of a penalty for cutting a corner.

But the Englishman, who won the 2009 title with Brawn GP, had another eventful race in Sepang, losing ground off the start and leaving room for Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to make an easy pass.

Button was able to recover position in the pits during what he described as a "confusing" race and went on to take second comfortably.

"I'm not sure anyone knew who was going to finish behind Sebastian," added Button.

"I didn't expect the Ferraris and the Renault to be as consistent as they were so we made a few subtle changes in the stops and improved from there.

"We made some really good calls in the pit stops so thank you to the guys.

"The first race [in Australia] was frustrating. I came here looking for a good result and until the last lap I was trying to fight for the victory - it was a long shot but I had to give it a go."

Hamilton, meanwhile, cut a disconsolate figure after seeing his hopes of a first race victory since last season's Belgian Grand Prix come to nothing.

The 26-year-old set the fastest time in Friday's final free practice session and missed out on pole position by just one tenth of a second.

But he was overtaken by Renault's Nick Heidfeld at turn one and went on to endure a miserable afternoon.

Hamilton felt his first pit stop for fresh tyres came too early and he was playing catch-up from then on, eventually being forced into an unscheduled fourth stop close to the end.

Then there was the incident involving former team-mate Alonso on lap 46.

"I started second and did everything I could to keep up," Hamilton told BBC Sport. "I don't have too much to say really.

"I got stuck behind Heidfeld - I had Jenson on my inside and Heidfeld on my outside, so I was really squashed in turn one.

"It was difficult to defend my position whilst not hitting Jenson and not hitting Heidfeld. That was an awkward position to be in but that's the way it goes.

"Through the race I think my tyres went off, we boxed too early then we had to box earlier - all the time we were boxing before everyone.

"My tyres were done at the end unfortunately. It's one of those days and we have to take in on the chin and move forward."