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Button leads competition for 2nd behind Vettel

Updated: November 10, 2011, 12:14

McLaren Mercedes driver Jenson Button of Britain arrives in the paddock at the Yas Marina racetrack , in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Nov.10, 2011. The Emirates Formula One Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates(AP) With Sebastian Vettel already crowned Formula One world champion, Jenson Button is looking to strengthen his grip on second place at this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Button leads a group of four drivers fighting for the runner-up spot with two races remaining. The McLaren driver holds a 13-point lead over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. Red Bull's Mark Webber is 19 points back and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton 38 points adrift.

While Button would rather be challenging for the championship, he said finishing ahead of several other former champions would still be "good end to a positive'' season.

"When you have won a world championship, nothing else will do except for winning,'' said Button, who won the 2009 title. "But also to finish in front of Red Bull and Fernando in a Ferrari ... and also Lewis, it would be something you would fight for, definitely, rather than settling and not really giving it your all. I'm still concentrating on winning races and I'm not going to back off if I can think I can secure second place easier.''

The 31-year-old Briton has won three races this year, compared to two for Hamilton and one for Alonso - the only drivers other than Vettel to finish first this season.

He has also been more consistent than his teammate Hamilton, who has often been undermined by penalties and crashes.

Button said much of his success came down to improving the reliability of his car and the fact he was much more involved in the development of his car than he was the previous season.

"I feel a lot of time we've done the best we possibly could have,'' Button said. "I've done a good job in terms driving car and working with engineers. Suzuka (Japan) was a great victory for us. We were quick, consistent. The pit stops were fantastic. Everything just fell into place.''

Alonso, a two-time champion, is also gunning for second but said he mainly wants to finish strong for the sake of his team, not himself. Last year, Alonso came into Abu Dhabi as the points leader and with a chance to clinch the title, but lost the championship to Vettel after he finished seventh.

"It's better second than fourth or fifth. But we are competitive people. We like to win and when we cannot arrive first it's not the same,'' Alonso said. "At the same point, I see all the guys, the mechanics, the engineers really pushing to help me to reach second place. We know the tough year we had, the problems we faced in parts of the year so the team is really motivated to help me get second in drivers championship. For them, I will try and do my best for sure.''

Despite being in the hunt for second, Alonso couldn't hide his disappointment on Thursday about a season in which aerodynamics problems have let the Red Bull cars of Vettel and Webber gain a crucial edge. The team has only won one race and endured a series of uncharacteristic management changes.

"It's not a disaster but for sure when you race for Ferrari there are a lot of expectations,'' Alonso said. "People expect you to win many races and fight for the championship, and we weren't able to do that. We understand the season wasn't the best for our fans. We need to improve and raise our level for next year and fight at the top of the podium from race one.''

Hamilton was even harder on himself, brushing aside trying to finish second as almost a pointless exercise. He described his year as "a couple of so-so races but the rest have been fairly disappointing.''

Though he has won twice, Hamilton's season has been defined by his mistakes, including several penalties that forced him down the grid and a running feud with Felipe Massa after crashing into the Ferrari driver in three of the past four races.

Much of his troubles, Hamilton said, was due to the lack of a support system. Last year, Hamilton dropped his father Anthony Hamilton as manager and he confirmed last month that he had broken up with long-time girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger of the pop group Pussycat Dolls.

Hamilton compared his plight to that of his teammate Button, who he says "has done a great job to get things in the right place.''

"He has got his dad there who is at every single race. He has his management, his friends. He has a great bubble around him,'' Hamilton said. "He can go out and perform without any worries on his mind.

"I did have that at one point but lost that bubble, and I don't have that around me at the moment. I'm working on having that for the future.''


Follow Michael Casey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mcasey1

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