Button content with useful practice
by Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at Monza
Reigning world champion Jenson Button says he needs a podium finish at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix to keep his hopes of a second title alive.
Button, fastest in first practice, is 35 points behind McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who tops the table.
"I need to have a good race here and challenge for the victory to claw some points back," said Button.
"It's not a must-win but that's the aim - a podium is very important here but the win is obviously the target."
Button led the way in the opening practice session, but the second saw the field close up behind pacesetter, Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel's Red Bull, the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa and the two McLarens were covered by just 0.371 seconds.
Hamilton leads the drivers' standings by three points from Mark Webber with six races to go - and he is optimistic he can consolidate his lead.
"We're strong and we can compete with the others this weekend," said Hamilton, the 2008 world champion.
"We are where we thought we were going to be. We don't really know where [Red Bull and Ferrari] got all their pace from - but we've still got some in our pocket so we're all right."
McLaren surprised everyone by running with a conventional rear wing in first practice as opposed to a shallower, lower model more suited to Monza's low-downforce track.
Second practice then saw Hamilton abandon the F-duct, which increases speed on the straights, while Button completed the session with the aerodynamic aid in place.
Hamilton explained: "We have two downforce levels - one is slower down the straights but quicker through the corners and the other is quicker down the straights but slower in cornering.
"They pretty much balance each other out and we are just trying to see which one is better on high fuel and whether one has more potential than the other.
"The car feels very good and we're not in a bad position, that's for sure."
McLaren will analyse the data before making a decision on whether to run the F-duct for Saturday's qualifying session.
There was encouraging feedback from both drivers following Friday practice that either way the team can challenge rivals Red Bull and Ferrari for pole.
"It's a good position to be in as we have a competitive car here and we have two different choices for qualifying and the race," Button added.
"The long-run pace is good and the lower-fuel pace is good - so it's not too bad!
"I'm not totally happy with the way the car feels on the soft tyre so there is some time there.
"But I'm a happy man at the moment and excited to get back out there."