Jenson Button’s hopes of claiming victory in front his home crowd this weekend may be slim, but the man from Frome is as driven as ever in his quest to turn things around for his long-term Honda outfit.
After consistently knocking on the door of the top-ten runners in the early part of the season Honda’s results have tailed off somewhat as the championship approaches the half-way mark.
While the Brackley-based outfit have made huge strides since their lacklustre 2007 season thanks in part to the arrival of esteemed technical director and former Ferrari guru Ross Brawn squabbling at the rear of the pack with the likes of Force India and Toro Rosso in recent races is hardly where the team envisaged their 2008 campaign being fought.
Button’s frustration at not being able to give his legions of supporters the result both he and they expect this weekend is painstakingly clear, but the 28-year-old is adamant that he has lost none of his motivation after nine years in the sport.
“I love what I do, so I have no problems with motivation,” says Button. “It isn’t nice knowing that I’m going into the British Grand Prix without a realistic chance of battling at the front but, when I’m in the car, I push 110 per cent.”
“That’s what I do every time I get in the car; it’s what I have to do to drive the team forward and ahead of what will be a better year in 2009.”
Button has developed a thick skin when it comes to battling with disappointment after two trying years at Benetton in 2001 and 2002. The Briton is confident that it is only a matter of time before his fortunes with Honda turn for the better.
“I’m in Formula One and that is every driver’s primary goal,” said Button. “Beyond that, it’s a question of where you are in F1, whether you’re in a good team and whether you have the experience to challenge for the world championship.
“I’m only 28 years old, yet this is already my ninth year in F1, so I have the necessary experience to win the title. I haven’t got the car underneath me to do that at the moment, but that will come.”
The Honda driver also admits to having much more input into the development of the car than has had in previous years.
“I’m working much harder now than I did in 2004, when I finished third in the world championship, because that’s what you have to do to get back to the front,” explains Button. “I make sure that the team are making the changes that need to be made.”
While it is unlikely that Button will be able to challenge for a podium at this year’s British Grand Prix, points could be a real possibility. Honda will bring a number of new parts on the car for Silverstone, including chassis, aerodynamic and engine updates which the Anglo-Japanese outfit is hoping will firm up their position in the mid-field.
“We expect to see an improvement to the performance of the RA108 at Silverstone, certainly compared to the French Grand Prix at Magny Cours,” explains Honda Technical Director Ross Brawn. “We have a number of new performance parts on the car in the areas of chassis, aerodynamics and engine, which should allow us to be on the pace with our current competitors in the midfield.”
Button has had a mixed bag of results at Silverstone in the past. In his rookie year for BMW Williams in 2000, the Briton hustled way onto the third row of the grid before taking home fifth in the race, one of his best results of the year. While success at the former airfield proved elusive during his troubled years with Benetton in 2001 and 2002, the man from Frome bounced back with BAR Honda in 2003 with a sterling charge through the pack to eighth place, having started nineteenth.
His best performances came during the height of BAR’s success in 2004 and 2005 where he qualified an impressive third and second on the grid respectively. But he was unable to convert either of these qualifying efforts into a podium after struggling to match the pace of the front-running Ferraris and McLarens on race day.