Schumacher: Button is quality

Michael Schumacher has said that Britain’s Jenson Button is a top-level F1 driver and that he rates the Brawn driver very highly.

The Ferrari champion turned motorbike rider spoke out to the Daily Telegraph about Button, who finished third overall in the 2004 season behind Schumacher and his Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello. Schumacher said he was impressed with Button from the outset.

“When Jenson arrived in F1 you could see straight away that he was highly talented. He was outqualifying and sometimes outracing his teammate,” said Michael, referring to his younger brother Ralf, who partnered Button at Williams in 2000.

“If you see a driver (Ralf) who has some experience and a new kid comes in and straight away matches the pace, then you see that they are highly talented,” the German added.

Button’s pole at Imola in 2004 was a turn up for the books, as Schumacher’s own Ferrari was at the height of its period of dominance, and Schumacher pointed to that.

“When I saw that I could tell very clearly how good he was. He showed that when he has a package that is built around him with the ability he has then he can be absolutely top level.”

Schumi’s remarks will come as a welcome endorsement for Button, who this year has been the target of criticism that he needs a fantastic car to produce the goods. The criticism stems from Button’s years in unwieldy Honda cars, during which he was not able to show his talent.

Flavio Briatore has been one of Button’s most outspoken critics, labelling the Frome flyer a ”paracarro” – Italian for lamp-post. Some wags have suggested that Briatore’s ‘wit’ is motivated by envy of Button’s achievements this year.