The world of Formula One and beyond has paid tribute to Jenson Button after the Britain clinched the World Drivers championship crown yesterday in Brazil.
After finishing in fifth place in Interlagos, the 29-year-old now has an unmatchable lead as the Grand Prix circus heads to the final round of the series in Abu Dhabi.
Tributes were paid to Button from his own team, Brawn GP who also clinched the Constructors championship in their debut season. Team boss Ross Brawn paid tribute to the Brit, who like the Brackley based team had faced an uncertain future at the end of last year after Honda’s withdrawal from the sport.
“Jenson’s drive today was the drive of a world champion.” said Brawn “He’s a fantastic racer. Today he had a great race; he knew what he had to do.”
“We’ve lost a little bit of pace in the car over the last few races and he’s stuck with it and he’s deserved everything he’s got.”
Central to Brawn’s success has been Nick Fry, who was also instrumental in putting together the rescue package which saved the team. Fry was also full of praise for Button, claiming that he wasn’t “surprised” by his championship win.
“Jenson hasn’t surprise me at all. I’ve always felt that he could do it, and I think he’s just demonstrated to everyone what he can do, and the doubters who said he couldn’t overtake or he wasn’t aggressive enough, hopefully they’re eating humble pie because he really has shown them under a tremendously pressured situation and the competition today and through the latter part of the season especially has been phenomenally strong.”
There were also fitting tributes from Button’s main rival for this season’s crown, his team-mate Rubens Barrichello:
“I am pleased for Jenson, as a friend, and as a great champion, and if I didn’t win, he should have won it, so well done to him. Jenson deserved to do it, but he won it on the first six races, and I think the second half of the championship was mine. It is a hell of a team that deserves to win and we will have a great night tonight. I feel part of this, especially the constructors’ championship.”
Of course BGP 001 was helped significantly by their customer engine supply with Mercedes Benz. Norbert Haug issued a glowing report on Button’s achievement on behalf of the German manufacturer.
“Congratulations to Jenson Button and the Brawn. Ten months ago these guys were in danger of having no future in Formula 1. Today, they all achieved the biggest reward possible for all their hard work and effort. Well done guys – you wrote a fairytale story this season. Jenson is a worthy successor to Lewis Hamilton as F1 world champion.”
Button also received praise from F1 champions past and present. Three-time champion Niki Lauda took his hat off to Button in his post-race interview with the BBC.
“When you are world champion there is nothing to criticise. He is one of the world champions now and he did a perfect job.” said the Austrian, “He was very conservative in the middle of the season, trying to protect his lead, and he did manage to protect it.
“He drove a really aggressive perfect race in Brazil, so he can do both sides. You have a really good world champion back in England again.”
Fellow three-time World champion, Sir Jackie Stewart also echoed Lauda s sentiments, reflecting on the feeling he had when he one his first world title.
“I know the feeling, and to win your first world championship is always a bigger thrill. He came through the field magically actually. I mean, he picked up nine places, there were a few accidents that helped him on his way, but he got through those without a scratch and without damaging the car.
“I’m thrilled for him because it’s the first time in 40 years that we’ve had a British champion back-to-back, first Lewis Hamilton and now Jenson Button. It’s great.”
Outgoing World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, admitted that Button had been the most consistent driver all season and thoroughly deserved to take the title from him.
“Big congratulations to Jenson, I have to say incredible job to him and I am really happy for him and his family.
“I can’t take anything away from Jenson he did the better job this year, but I plan on taking it back at some stage, who knows when, but I really hope that we can give it a good challenge next year from the start.”
There was also kind words from the highest office in Britain, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown offering his congratulations.
“I want to send my warmest congratulations to Jenson Button for clinching the Formula One drivers’ championship today in Brazil, on the same circuit that Lewis Hamilton won the drivers’ championship last year.â€
“We can be proud that Jenson is the 10th British driver to win the title. His performances over the season with the new Brawn team have excited Formula One fans in Britain and across the world, and we look forward to his continuing success in the seasons ahead.”
Undoubtedly Button s title triumph, the second for a British driver in two years, will no end of good for British Motorsport and in particular the future of the British Grand Prix.
These sentiments were issued by MSA Chief Executive, Colin Hilton:
“Jenson has done a fantastic job and we are all delighted for him. For those of us who have followed his career as he came through the ranks of UK motor sport, it was always clear that he had the makings of a future world champion. The team have obviously given him the right equipment this year and he has delivered spectacularly. For the UK to enjoy back-to-back F1 world championships is a wonderful boost for the sport.”
Finally the last word on Button s championship victory must go to Bernie Ecclestone. As ever, the Formula One Supremo was reserved in his praise of his fellow countryman even if Button isn t “officially” champion, just yet.
“Well, he’s not world champion until the end of November when the FIA announce it. He’s got enough points, if everything else is alright, to be world champion and he deserves it too. He did a good job. All the question marks from the last few races, in my opinion, now have disappeared.”