Button delighted to join McLaren royalty

Reuters - Mon, 29 Mar 18:38:00 2010

Jenson Button did much more than just notch up his first win as a McLaren driver in Australia on Sunday, he also surprised the critics who said it would be a big mistake to join the team.

Button bebiendo champán - 0

In stepping up alongside the likes of Alain Prost and the late Ayrton Senna, the Formula One world champion also challenged conventional wisdom and popular perception.

"Every win is special, because you work so hard to achieve it, but Sunday was a bit different for me," the 30-year-old said on his personal website on the day after his Melbourne triumph.

"Obviously, it feels great to win for a new team, but ... to know I'm joining a list of McLaren drivers that includes people like Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna is still something that is hard to take in.

"I've won a race for the same team as Alain Prost. It's quite incredible."

Button was supposedly the journeyman who lucked in last year to take the title before joining the team that fellow-Briton Lewis Hamilton had made his own - a 'Lions' Den' where he would surely end up mauled.

Former champions and leading lights warned him before the start of the season that he was making a mistake in leaving his comfort zone at Brawn, now the Mercedes team of Michael Schumacher.

The odds on him winning in Australia - 14-1 from Ladbrokes last week compared to 5-1 for 2008 world champion Hamilton - were generous.

Button made his point by using his racing brain in a move that Prost, the French 'Professor' who won four titles and beat team mate Senna to the championship at McLaren in 1989, would have been proud of.

He was first to pit for slick tyres on a still-wet surface, making the call himself, and his famed smoothness at the wheel then allowed him to complete the next 51 laps on the same set.

"I think that was probably Jenson's finest grand prix victory as a ... drive of great confidence, great commitment and courage," former McLaren driver and race winner John Watson told BBC radio.

The comparison, and not for the first time, to Prost is fitting. The Frenchman was a master of racecraft, a driver whose skill at saving his tyres and brakes could translate into victory over opponents in quicker machines.

Button showed on Sunday that he is Formula One's modern epitome of a smooth operator, both on and off the track. His move does not look so unwise now, and he could ultimately prove to be more of a Daniel calmly taming the lions than a sacrificial victim.

By ensuring that he and not Hamilton is McLaren's first winner of the season, the Englishman landed a telling psychological blow that could reverberate for months to come.

While Button sprayed the champagne and embraced mechanics, Hamilton was left fuming at a team strategy decision to bring him in for a second pitstop that he had slammed over the car-to-pit radio as "a fricking terrible idea".

That will be patched over no doubt but Hamilton, a special talent who drove a quite sensational race full of overtaking on Sunday, will have to face up to the fact that McLaren is no longer 'his' team.

Button has won sooner than anyone expected, against rivals in quicker cars and on a level playing field with Hamilton.

He is now one of just two drivers on the starting grid to have won races for three separate teams, the other being Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

"I really think this underlines that not only are we competitive, but we're very well integrated," said Button to ram home the point that he feels very much at home with McLaren.

"As a team we can trust and rely on each other and we can build on those strengths.

"That's what I'm most excited about, really, after Melbourne; the impetus that this will give us," he said.

"I've spoken before about needing time to get more comfortable in the car, and I still mean that, there's still a little way to go until I think I'll find the new environment completely suited to me.

"But the fact that we've already got one win under our belts, and that we can clearly see the work ahead of us that we want to do to be better, then that's really, really encouraging."

Reuters

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