F1: the unshakeable sureness of Button

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, July 6th, 2008

 
 

The Observer has decided to think outside the box today and do a welcome profile of the one British F1 driver who’s getting rather less attention than the other two – Jenson Button.

It’s a long and thoughtful piece by Maurice Hamilton including interviews with the driver himself and with team boss Ross Brawn. It sticks very much to the corporate line that Honda’s on the up but, like turning a liner, that’s going to be a very slow business.

Jense’s fans will love it, for paragraphs like these:

Even though this was the third time Button had been eliminated in 2008, it was a reflection of the company he has been keeping in the frantic mid-field rather than a condemnation of his driving. It also captures the irony of Button’s 16th place in the points table: after 143 grands prix, three pole positions, 15 podium finishes and one victory, the 28-year-old Englishman is driving better than ever. He is ready to win, not only more races, but also the championship. Button just needs the right equipment.

Given the unshakable self-belief of any driver who has reached motor sport’s premier league, the mantra about ‘having a decent car’ will be echoed by half the field at Silverstone this afternoon. But, in Button’s case, the claim has a legitimacy fashioned by eight years of hard knocks interrupted by telling, but regrettably brief, periods of brilliance. Read full story here…

Sorry about this – but we’re just not convinced. To us this seems like a remarkably uncritical piece of journalism that buys unquestioningly into the idea that Brawn’s arrival is the equivalent of a magic wand that will make everything all right next year.

Well, if wishes were horses then beggars would ride – all the way to the world championship. Like Fox Mulder, we want to believe. Like Dana Scully, the evidence to the contrary is staring us in the face.

Even though the interview is bang up-to-date, mentioning Button’s adventures at Magny-Cours, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that rather than competing in the midfield Honda’s only serious competition at the moment is Force India. Toro Rosso have them knocked into a cocked hat right now.

They are, in short, in grave danger of becoming back markers.

We accept this might be because this year’s been written off and all the team’s energy is going into developing the 2009 car rather than into making the RA108 run better.

But this means the base that Brawn’s revival will have to begin at is so low that even a season of miraculous improvement could still see them outside the points every race.

Ironically this might mean Button’s drive is more secure. Nick Fry’s recent remarks about the driver market being wide open, and the team on the lookout for the very best it can attract, might now translate into it being lucky to hold on to the talent it has.

And they seem even odder in the face of Brawn’s seemingly unshakeable faith in one J Button – another question this article leaves unanswered.

We’re planning a longer piece of our own looking at Honda’s woes in detail. But, as might seem fitting on British GP day, and during Wimbledon, which never brings out the best in a British crowd, Maurice Hamilton seems to be writing it as we’d like it to be.

Not as it actually is.

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