Jenson Button was so sick of struggling with his wilful Honda at Spa that he admitted after the race how his retirement due to hydraulics problems actually came as a relief.
Button was left cursing a car that fluctuated between oversteer and understeer, suffered from a slipping clutch and eventually succumbed to hydraulics failure.
This came during a weekend of speculation as to whether he would, in fact, be left driving the disastrous Honda RA107’s successor – or whether the anticipated departure of Fernando Alonso from McLaren would free up a seat there for the beleaguered Brit.
His stoicism and lack of adverse comment in the face of his team’s recent problems is thought to have added appreciably to his value in Woking.
However German driver Nico Rosberg, making a favourable impression with Williams in his second season of racing, is thought to be capable of giving Jense more than a run for his money if McLaren enters the 2008 drivers’ market.
But back to this weekend. Speaking after the race, Button said: “It’s always disappointing to retire from a race but it was six laps less pain as the car was so difficult to drive.
“We expected a tough race this weekend, having tested the revised circuit back in July, so it was no surprise that the car has not been working well here. It was a tough race and the car was changing from huge oversteer to understeer throughout the lap.
“Then the clutch started slipping, the power steering failed and it was clear we had experienced a hydraulic failure. Disappointing, but we head to Jerez next week with new developments for our home race in Japan and let’s hope for better things in Fuji.”
Jacky Eeckelaert, Honda’s engineering director, added: “Our race result today reflects our qualifying positions and that was the most we could hope for really.
“On this high-speed track our car is simply not fast enough to get us into the points on merit and today there were no reliability issues at the front of the field.
“We adopted a one-stop strategy, which was the right choice from where we started, and both Jenson and Rubens did a good job with a very difficult car.”
He said the team would shortly be testing a new aero package at the Spanish circuit of Jerez and added that he hoped hard work back at the Honda factory over the past few weeks would soon pay off in terms of race pace.