Posts Tagged ‘Jenson Button’

I have posted before about Jenson Button and his openness this season. Despite his reputation as a bit of a playboy, he is very serious about his racing and always has been. Now he’s at the sharp end and very focussed, he analyses situations very clearly and is good enough to share them with us in the media, on and off the record.
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After the British Grand Prix he did his usual media debrief and I have picked out a few comments which enhance our understanding of his situation and how the season is unfolding for him.

Silverstone wasn’t a great weekend; he failed to win the British Grand Prix, which is a major disappointment and he failed to make the podium for the first time this season.

Jenson’s trademark this season has been calmness and he maintained that throughout the weekend, apart from one rather frantic radio call complaining that the car was not handling well in the fast corners. It wasn’t desperation, but there was a strong note of anxiety there.

He believes that Silverstone was a blip, caused by a combination of circuit characteristics and cool weather. His team mate managed a podium and there wasn’t another car which looked like seriously challenging Rubens’ Brawn, so Button will be reassured that on hotter tracks with fewer fast corners he will be able to compete with Red Bull and manage the points gap he has to Vettel, which is currently 25.

“I would love to win the British GP, but it didn’t happen,” said Button. “I came away with three points, which is not great. But, I am not massively disappointed. I go to the Nurburgring positive and thinking that we can take the fight to Red Bull there.”

Button highlights the braking capability of the Brawn as a key weapon, something we have heard before and as Silverstone doesn’t feature too many important braking zones, it was a weapon they couldn’t use there.

“The braking on our car is the strongest point at the moment, ” he said. “We are stronger than the Red Bulls under braking, but there is no braking here. You never hit the pedal that hard here, and that is another reason why we cannot get tyre temperature.”

He then explains how the pecking order is worked out at Brawn. Both drivers are given an equal shot at the pole by carrying the same fuel load. That has happened quite a few times this season. It’s then down to how is in front after the start to come in on the appointed lap, while the slower car has tom pit a lap early.

“I was fuelled to lap 19, as was Rubens, and obviously he was in front and he, as he should, got lap 19. I stopped a lap early, as did Trulli.

“We knew we wouldn’t get him in the stops so we fuelled it long. I had a lot of fuel on board, the most I’ve had all year, on the prime tyre. That tyre just did not work at all. I had such little grip, and Rubens struggled with it as well even though he can work the tyre more.”

Other sites have published the whole debrief as a Q & A and it’s worth having a read, but the above are the most interesting points for me.

Silverstone was a wake up call for Brawn and Button but they are still on course. Red Bull will fight them at the remaining races, but Vettel has already lost a couple of his 8 allocated engines for the season so that might count against him later on and the Red Bull car he and Webber use is still a bit heavy on tyres at some venues, which is another weakness.

Everything still points towards Button and he is staying calm, but we could be in for some competitive weekends.

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Jenson Button sat down with the media this afternoon and as usual gave a well-considered analysis of where he stands relative to the opposition. Jenson is clearly thinking a lot about all aspects of the rival teams, as is normal, but what is good is that he is prepared to share his thoughts with the media in a considered way.

He will need another hand to count wins soon

He will need another hand to count wins soon

“I think that the Red Bulls should work quite well here,” he said. “The car that they had in Barcelona, if they brought that here they would be competitive. We’ll have to see if their diffuser makes a difference on this circuit. But they’re expected to be competitive and I think they will be.

“If you look at the times in the races previous to Monaco, they were very competitive. You could say that they have been as quick as us; they just haven’t got it together over the race weekends. You can’t blame KERS cars, I think strategy is important, and a few other things. They haven’t had race wins, but I think they’re quick enough to fight with us for sure.

“The Ferraris will be quick here too. I think they’ve made up ground at every race and they performed very well, especially in Monaco. You can say it’s a different type of circuit, but there’s a lot of slow speed here and they’ve got KERS for the drag up the hill, which should help them quite a bit. So those two teams will be strong.

“McLaren I think will be quick for most of the circuit but I think they’ll struggle so much with Turn 8 that maybe they won’t be there over a lap time. And Toyota maybe will be competitive because they’ve reverted to a previous aero package and they’ll be quite good at a circuit like this.

“If you look through all the data of every race we’ve done their lap times are as competitive as us, certain teams, it’s just that we’ve done a better job than them. They will get it right, just not too often hopefully.”

Button says that Turkey will not favour Red Bull as much as Silverstone, which has more high speed corners, where the RB5 excels. In Istanbul there are long straights and low speed corners, with only the infamous Turn 8 the one where the RBR will stretch its legs.

“If you look at Barcelona, the two high speed corners, they were taking one and a half to two tenths out of us in each, which is massive. Everyone thinks our car must be amazing in the high speed, but it’s not compared to the Red Bull. It’s an area we have to work on. Turn 8 is a long corner and it can damage your tyres.”

Button believes that he stands to lose time to Red Bull turn 8, but believes that the new parts on the front wing might help him find a bit more performance in that iconic corner, if he can dial it in well.

Meanwhile Fernando Alonso said that he feels that Button is able to drive with something in hand, that he has not had to push at all times. According to Alonso the Brawn car has no weak points,

“It is the best car, there is no doubt. It’s very good aerodynamically, it’s very good mechanically, with good grip, because they can really attack the kerbs, ” he said. “They have a very strong car, they have finished all the races with both cars.

“They have very good starts, so there’s no weak point at the moment. It’s very difficult to beat them because it’s difficult to find that weak point. They are the best in every area so that’s quite impressive.”

He rather gloomily added that he thinks Button could wrap up the title by round 12 or 13.

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There has been quite a bit of chatter in the last couple of days about Jenson Button’s future, in light of comments made by Brawn GP’s Nick Fry on the subject.

“Jenson’s been with us a long time, and we’ve had failures and we’ve had successes,” said Fry. “My objective, and our objective, is to have him for the rest of his career, and nothing’s changed on that front. It’s mutual that he would like to stay with the team, and after five race wins, we should be able to get something together.”

After five wins from six races and with a seemingly unassailable lead in the championship it is hard to imagine either side thinking about other options. Ross Brawn admitted last year that he was still assessing Button, after being quite impressed by him during the 2004 championship when he and Michael Schumacher raced against him in the BAR Honda. As this season goes on Brawn is increasingly impressed with Button’s ability to pull out a lap time in qualifying and to control races.

Although F1 is a cynical business, it matters all round that Button stayed with the team through the winter even when it meant he was potentially risking his career. The team have rewarded that loyalty with a race winning car and no driver can ask more than that.

But F1 is also a fickle business and a driver who was considered to have ‘flatlined’ in his career is now flavour of the month again and in demand from other teams. Jenson was considered to have plateaued by Ron Dennis and was described as a concrete post by Renault boss Flavio Briatore earlier in the year. He responded by revealing that Flavio had tried to hire him over the winter.

This will have been the period when Flavio was unsure whether Fernando Alonso was going to stay with the team. Alonso had been in quite serious discussions with Honda among others, but decided to stay put in the end.

Jenson signed a new contract with Honda just before the Japanese Grand Prix last year, having been made to sweat on it by the Japanese manufacturer. After the pull out he took a pay cut this year to stay with Brawn and is believed to have signed only a one year deal, but he will have had a pay off from Honda for the unfulfilled contract and will have benefitted from bonuses from the success he’s enjoyed this season.

It is clear that some of the established top teams have been making enquiries about getting him for next year. Button will reflect that at 29 and likely to become world champion this year, it could be the time to maximise his earning potential. Also it will be difficult for Brawn to maintain is pre-eminent position in F1 next year, despite Ross Brawn’s acknowledged brilliance at planning and resource management

There is no need to hurry into a decision, especially with the sport in such a volatile state over the rules for next year but it makes little sense for him to think of moving on to another team. Funding remains an issue for Brawn. They stand to win around $70 million for winning the championship, but they have yet to put any more sponsors on the car apart from the relatively low fee paid by Virgin. He will want some assurances that Brawn is going to pull in the sponsor investment for the medium to long term.

Fry made another interesting comment when he said “I’m sure he (Button) and his manager are sitting there thinking his price is going up the whole time. But maybe the sponsorship for the team is going up too, so maybe we can afford it.”

This seems slightly odd because it is acknowledging that they are going to have to pay him a lot more money because of the results. But you could not have a more graphic illustration of the fact that an F1 driver is only as good as his car than Jenson Button’s last two seasons.

Button staying at Brawn is considered more or less a given in the F1 paddock, but there was some discussion as to who his team mate might be next year. Rubens Barrichello has done well this year at getting the car set up and backing Button up by scoring lots of points. The balance seems pretty good between them but Rubens cannot go on for ever.

There are not too many obvious alternatives, although someone like Timo Glock might fit the bill quite well. However he is known to be on Mercedes hit list for the McLaren team as a possible replacement for Kovalainen.

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I wasn’t surprised to hear Jenson Button saying that racing is dominating his life at the moment.

Button is like many drivers who have found themselves in with a chance of winning the world title. Presented with an unexpected opportunity to fulfill his lifetime’s ambition, Button is finding that he can think of little else between races.

“I’m probably a right boring bastard at the moment, I really am,” he said.

Jenson has always had a relaxed air about him in person and in the years when things were not going so well, he found it easy to switch off between races. But beneath the relaxed facade there is an intensity about him; he was always unsettled by not being competitive. He appears to be wearing his current situation quite easily, but it’s clearly taking over his life. He finds himself thinking through all the scenarios, considering every possible thing which might help him to land the grand prize,

“It’s different because things are going well and you want to be thinking about how you can improve. When things aren’t going so well, you know you need to improve the car and where you are, but you also need to get away from the racing, to forget about it for a few days. At the moment, that’s not possible.

“This season is weird because after the last couple of races I’ve won. I’ve obviously enjoyed the weekend, but I wake up on a Monday morning and I’m already thinking about the next race.

“It’s quite a strange feeling, very different to the rest of my Formula 1 career, winning four races out of five, but you do get used to it very quickly. I will never forget how difficult it can get, how tough it can get, but when you’re winning, finishing second is a disappointment.

“Over the last few weeks, I’ve been non-stop thinking about the next race, running through it in my mind, getting all the data. It’s been quite a stressful few weeks, you wouldn’t think so, but it is more stressful.”

Michael Schumacher lived in this mental state for the best part of 12 years. It’s hard not to become compulsive-obsessive in that position.

Racing is a kind of controlled chaos, there are so many variables at play, especially at the sharp end of Formula 1. A driver always wants to try to master every aspect, control every situation, to bring it under his control, to dominate.

In this he will have been influenced by the mentality of Ross Brawn, who knows all about maintaining competitiveness and giving nothing away.

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For the first time in his career, Jenson Button goes to Monaco as the favourite to win the race.

“To go to Monaco with the lead in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’
Championships is fantastic but we saw in Barcelona that the performance
margins at the front are extremely close. There will be a lot of
competitive cars fighting it out this weekend, ” he said.

He has won four of the first five races and even though there have been signs lately that the Red Bull car is more than a match for the Brawn, at a tight circuit like Monaco the Brawn should have the edge. It is better mechanically than the RBR car and very nimble.

All eyes will be on Red Bull to see if Adrian Newey’s team has been able to rush out the new floor with the double diffuser in time for the race. That has certainly been their plan. The extra downforce could make quite a difference to them.

Jenson has had some great days in Monaco, the most exciting was definitely the 2004 race where, driving the BAR Honda he was narrowly beaten by pole sitter Jarno Trulli in the Renault.

It is, to date, his only Monaco podium.

He’s had some bad times there, too. In 2003 he was unable to take the start after a horrible shunt in practice, where he slammed the barriers at the chicane and in 2005 he was forced to miss the race because BAR were banned for two races for fuel tank irregularities.

I remember that weekend well, because Martin Brundle and I persuaded him to commentate on the race with us on ITV and he was really terrific at it.

Button’s task will be made a lot easier this weekend if he can qualify at the front, but I will be fascinated to see whether Sebastian Vettel can maintain his record of qualifying in the top three at every race.

Button knows that being aggressive on Saturday will be crucial,
“My usual driving style is very smooth but I will have to change that a little bit to get the best out of the car here,” he said in the pre race preview today. “You have to be aggressive around Monaco and not let the barriers intimidate you whilst obviously paying them due respect.”

It will be Rubens Barrichello’s 17th Monaco. He’s never won it either, although like Button he has finished second. The one I remember best was 1997 when he followed Michael Schumacher home in the rain, not in a Ferrari but in a Stewart-Ford.

I remember interviewing Jackie Stewart for TV at the end of that race and he was in floods of tears, he totally lost it. That clip appeared on a few highlights rolls over the years! The less nice memory was that I took my firesuit off after the race and packed it away in its bag and soon forgot that it was soaking wet…until I opened it again at the next race in Spain and it had mildew on it! Eeugh!

I love Monaco. I used to hate it, years ago when it was much harder to get around. But it is the only F1 race that lives up to the hype and the only venue which does more for the sport than the other way around.

This is my 19th Monaco (I missed the 1994 race) and I am as excited about it as I was before the first time I went.

I’ve got a few ideas for content this weekend and don’t forget to look out for the twitter feed, with a live reading of what’s really going on in qualifying and the race.

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Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has today backed Brawn GP’s Jenson Button, the runaway championship leader, to finish the job off and take his title.

“I think Jenson’s got a great chance, a great shot at it so I wish him all the best,” he told Reuters’ Alan Baldwin today.

“I think if I were to wish anyone (else) to win, it would be him.”

It’s quite an exciting prospect for British F1 fans to have two consecutive world champions. This used to happen in the 1960s when British drivers dominated the F1 scene. In 1962 to 65, we had Graham Hill, Jim Clark then John Surtees, then Clark again. And a few years later Graham Hill won the 1968 title and Jackie Stewart won in 1969.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa said to a group of us on Sunday that he believes it is impossible for him to catch Button now, with only 12 races to go and a 37 point gap. He would have to outscore Button at an average of 3 points a race to get in front and he doesn’t see that happening.

Hamilton also appeared to rule himself out of the equation,
“We’ll keep pushing to try and win races in the year but clearly defending the world championship is out of the question, ” he said.

And looking forward to next Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, it looks very much as though the track will suit Brawn, perhaps more than any track we have visited so far. The Brawn was easily the fastest car in sector three of the lap at Barcelona, which is all stop and start and traction out of slow corners. Button and Barrichello must start favourites there,

“I think it’s a great story, so I wish him all the luck,” said Hamilton. “They (Brawn) are going to have a great car there (in Monaco) so to beat them will be very tough.

“I don’t think he has ever won there … it will be a very special one for him to add to his list.”

Special doesn’t cover it. This is a fairytale season for the almost ‘forgotten man’ of F1. The championship beckons, but if he could win Monaco along the way…

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You recall the banter between Jenson Button, David Coulthard and Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone last year when Jenson challenged Lewis to join him in a Triathlon and Lewis accepted the bet only for his Dad to withdraw him later.

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Well Jenson will be participating in this year’s London Triathlon on August 1st and is going to be raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The race covers a 1500m swim, 40km bike ride and a 10km run, which Jenson is challenging himself to complete: “I’m aiming to finish in the top 10%, so no pressure!”

I think it’s great he’s doing this. So I am happy to plug it here on my blog and urge anyone who feels like giving some money to back him.

To sponsor Jenson in the London Triathlon visit

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Jenson Button says that he is not happy with the performance of his Brawn Mercedes car today, the first day of practice in Barcelona.

The car is equipped with the new aerodynamic package, the team’s first major development step since the season started. It features a new engine cover, new floor and new bodywork around the rear suspension. It is supposed to have given around three to four tenths of a second to the car. Rubens Barrichello was fourth today and is happy with his car. It looks very much as though it is still the strongest car out there, as they had plenty of fuel on board to record the lap times they did, compared to the cars in front today, the two Williams and Alonso’s Renault.

Button, however, has some problems. His fastest time in practice 2 was two tenths slower than Barrichello’s and he is playing catch up before tomorrow’s qualifying session. Barrichello has always been strong here and will give Button a stern challenge all weekend.

A few of us caught up with Button after the session and he was asked whether he is thinking about the championship yet?

“It‘s only when I’m asked the question,” he said. “Every race I go to I’m thinking about how well I can do that weekend. It’s about not thinking too far ahead. There’s a long way to go, Brazil and Abu Dhabi are a long way away there are a lot of races between now and then, and we’ve got to do well in all of them.”

As for this weekend, there is work to be done,
“The Red Bulls look competitive as ever, but for me I’ve struggled today to get a balance with the car, I’m a long way off where I want to be, we’ve got a few problems and hopefully we can solve then tomorrow. It’s not the new aero package so much, it’s just something on the car.

“It’s about getting a good feeling for the car, a good balance. I hope we can improve it for tomorrow and I know we can, because we know what the problems are.”

“I’m loving being the championship leader, centre of attention, not really. I love the racing.

“Ferrari were quite quick this morning, so I don’t know, they might be playing games, a lot of people do on Fridays, we certainly have in the past. We’ll wait and see. If you look at the consistency of some of the cars, you’d say that the Toyotas and Red Bulls look pretty competitive, but the others I’ve not really paid too much attention to. I’ll look at the data tonight.”

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Everyone is buzzing with the performance of the new Brawn Mercedes car in Barcelona, particularly that lap Jenson did on Wednesday of 1m 19.127 to end the day fastest.

There is a lot of speculation within F1 circles and the wider public about how he did that time, whether it is genuine or whether they are running an underweight car to attract sponsors, as some teams have done in the past.


Even Fernando Alonso has paid tribute to the Brawn team today, saying that his Renault couldn’t do those lap times whatever configuration it was in!

Well I’ve taken a close look at the data I’ve gathered and there is no doubt that this car is performing remarkably. We will only know whether it has been running underweight when we get the first two races out of the way and we can see what the relative performance of the Brawn to the BMW and Ferrari is when they all have to be the minimum weight.

Jenson did the lap time on the third lap of a four lap run. What is interesting about it is that his first flying lap was a 1m 19.229, so already very quick on the first lap, then he goes faster again. It was a qualifying simulation, of course, but he found more from the tyres on the second flying lap.

Whichever way you shake it, this was a massively quick time and reminiscent of the pre-season tests in 2004 when he did similar things, everyone thought it was underweight showboating, but the team went on and finished second in the championship.

As for their long run pace, this too is equally impressive. Jenson did a 22 lap run with laps mostly in the 1m21s and high 1m 20s. On Wednesday in Barcelona not too many other cars were doing long runs at that speed. Massa’s Ferrari does a 20 lap run with laps in the low 1m21s.

So on the face of it, as Alonso says, the Brawn is as fast as the Ferrari, which is amazing if the car is running at its legal weight. Bear in mind that Ferrari is running KERS and Brawn is not, so there is a weight advantage to Brawn. And the Brawn is able to put its ballast where it wants it, to improve weight distribution. But on the other hand the Ferrari has the performance boost of the KERS button on the straights – Massa is 8km/h faster across the start line than Jenson.

Jenson does another long run, this time 21 laps, eight of which are in the 1m 20s, again super-competitive.

They’ve been working on their 2009 car for longer than any of their rivals, having effectively written off the 2008 season before it started! They’ve made the work count and you can see why the team were so frustrated that Honda panicked when it saw the November sales figures and pulled the plug on F1.

The team knew they had a really good car on their hands.

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Ross Brawn’s team still has a long way to go, the car has no sponsors on it, the Mercedes engine deal is rumoured to be for just one year and they have to find partners in an economic crisis, but for 2009 things are a lot rosier for this team than they might appear. For one thing, Ross is not running the team on a shoestring, he has been given a budget not just to compete, but to impress.

Honda estimated that it would cost them €100 million to close the team down and rather than do that, with all the bad publicity that would entail, my information is that they have effectively given that sum to Brawn as a subsidy to run the team in 2010. After that he’s probably on his own. So he needs to show performance this year in order to attract long term partners, a point he made yesterday during his briefing. Added to the £45 million the team gets from Bernie Ecclestone as its share of the commercial revenues, this gives the team a very healthy estimated €145 of budget for the season – hence being able to prioritise Barrichello’s skill and experience over Bruno Senna’s sponsorship money.

Despite being Billy Big Pockets, I’m told that the team aren’t going to be throwing the money around in the non-engineering areas, so hospitality and marketing activities will be strictly ‘credit crunch rations.’

There are sacrifices being made for the greater good; Jenson Button was on around £12 million a year in the Honda days and he will have taken a big cut, just to be able to keep his career going, a bit like his old mate David Beckham. That said, he had just signed a new deal with Honda in October, so they would have paid him two years’ money anyway. I don’t think he’s exactly suffering. He admitted that having stared into the abyss over the last few months, he comes back to F1 with a greater desire to do well and get more from a career, which has yet to peak.

So how is the Brawn GP car and what are the prospects? Well I’m delighted to say that the car looks very good indeed. It’s fast, that’s the main thing. They also ran quite reliably for the two days I was in Barcelona, but gremlins will strike them, it’s inevitable with such short lead times. One thing in their favour is that the exhausts come as part of the Mercedes package, so that’s one less installation elent to go wrong.

But making a fast car reliable is infinitely preferable to the other away around, which is what they’ve had to deal with for the last two years.

Jenson did a long run on Monday afternoon of 20 laps, the kind of stint he would expect to do in the Spanish GP between pit stops. It was highly respectable, starting out in the low 1min 22s and coming gradually down to the mid 1m 21s. The car is consistent, driveable and a great basis on which to chase more performance. On Wednesday he did a lap in the low 1min 19s, which is fast by any standards. When I spoke to him and Ross over the last few days I could tell they were so happy about the performance of the car right out of the box. It’s a bit like 2004, when they had a good ‘un from the word go. That year only the Ferrari was faster.

It’s going to be a very tight midfield again this year, which will probably contain Red Bull, Brawn, Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso, possibly in something like that order, to start with at least. And where might McLaren slot in there?

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