Some positive news for fans of Jenson Button, who have had to endure extremely cold comfort for most of this season.
The British driver, arguably 2008’s greatest underachiever, has won a ringing endorsement from his Honda team’s management which reckons he could take on Lewis Hamilton with the right equipment.
However they have yet to follow this up with the ultimate vote of confidence, which would be to give our Jense an actual contract to drive for the team during 2009.
Since Renault’s recent announcement that Fernando Alonso would be honouring them with his presence next year, and that Nelson A Piquet would continue to drive alongside him, Honda is one of just two teams with an unconfirmed line-up.
It is presently testing GP2’s Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi, although Button’s seat for 2009 is thought to be comparatively safe in contrast to his team-mate’s, the veteran Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.
Nick Fry, Honda’s chief executive, has described Senna as “a prospective candidate” and added: “I’m sure he will do a great job.”
Fry said earlier this week: “Jenson is an immensely talented driver. I am absolutely convinced that if we, at Honda, give him the car that can do the job he can compete with Lewis.
“It is Formula One, everyone is under pressure to retain their position. The drivers are no different from any other person in the team.
“The drivers are no different from any other person in the team. They’ve got to deliver the results and the best people will get the race seats.
“We are not hurrying to choose our drivers for next year, we can afford to wait until possibly just before Christmas.
“Motivation in the team has been huge because they can see what’s happening for next year. I’m sure you are going to see us take a big step forward next year.”
Button has since said that he expects to drive for the team in 2009 despite the lack of a formal agreement: “Nothing is signed or sealed,” he told BBC Oxford, “but I am hoping to be with the team. I think the team feel the same as me.”
“It has been a really difficult season. Halfway through we realised it wasn’t going to get much better even if we developed the car, so we concentrated our efforts on next year.”
Button’s team-mate for next year is currently uncertain – but he said Honda would benefit from retaining Rubens Barrichello.
“They need a lot of feedback from us and having a new boy in the car, I don’t feel that you get as much feedback. But it’s not my decision,” he told a press conference to promote the Race of Champions.
He continued: “I personally like a team mate who is experienced because he can give good feedback and next year there are a lot of changes and not a lot of testing – the test drivers aren’t going to be doing much at all and we are very limited in mileage.”
Button said he was happy to believe the Brazilian’s assertion that he was driving better than ever: “I don’t think Rubens lies, I think he tells the truth which is always good in a team mate and he has put in some very good performances.”