Momentum is key, and Button has it

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 June, 2011, 12:00am


Jenson Button is an eternal optimist. He feels he can win the world championship this year, despite being 60 points behind Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel. However, he may well have reasons to be cheerful. Momentum is everything in Formula One, and as the circus descends on Valencia, Button has that in buckets.

His win last time out in Canada was astonishing. With 30 laps to go in Montreal he was dead last. He won on the final lap after forcing Vettel into a mistake. It was yet another astonishing race in an equally astonishing season and it seems to bear out the feeling that, if not in qualifying, McLaren are starting to catch Red Bull on race pace. That Button won despite six pit stops is even more impressive.

Form like that catches the eye and, sure enough, there would appear to be a new contract in the offing for Button, probably over and above the one-year extension into next season that McLaren can already invoke. It is not just the recent form that has kept the British team keen, but also the reported interest from Ferrari.

It's a far cry from seven years ago when Button got himself into a terrible legal tangle trying to leave the BAR team and re-join Williams. This nadir in his career proved to be his making, as BAR became Honda which became Brawn GP. Also-ran Button became a world champion and the rest is history.

It's nice to see Button in such a good place and perhaps current teammate Lewis Hamilton should take note. Of course, he was a world champion before Button, but he has been under fire recently and in Montreal his collision with his team-mate left Niki Lauda fuming, claiming his driving was 'completely mad, beyond all boundaries and will result in someone being killed'. A tad over the top perhaps from the triple world champion, but a fair barometer of how frustrated many are with Hamilton.

It was a bit odd then to see Hamilton walking into the Red Bull paddock and asking to see team principal Christian Horner after the race for a chat. Doing so in such a visible way was more of a statement to McLaren than to Horner: 'Get me a race-winning car or I will be having a look around' might have been the crude translation.

After such a bad run of races you might suggest that this smacks of arrogance. A kinder interpretation would suggest it is the self-confidence that all drivers need to survive and thrive. In a way it doesn't matter, because to use a clich?, form is temporary and class is permanent.

Teams know that Hamilton is a class act, an aggressive driver of brilliance who can thrill the crowds as well as his employers. Whatever his flaws (and there have been many this season), he will always be a sought-after driver, and this was a non-too-subtle reminder of that to McLaren.

Perhaps he should take some advice from F1's veteran circus master Bernie Ecclestone, who is rarely on the wrong side of an argument. If he is, he will soon switch sides, as we saw all too plainly from the debacle that was the Bahrain GP decision. When the sport's governing body, the FIA, decided the race would go ahead he supported the decision.

As soon as the flak started to fly and his old mate Max Mosley had pointed out the teams actually needed to agree to the move (not something that was likely), he switched sides quicker than players between games at Wimbledon. You don't make the kind of money he has by backing the losing horse.

This column intended to run the rule over this year's crop of rookies now that the season has bedded down.

However, a spanner was thrown into that cunning plan when Sergio Perez had his bad crash in Monaco and then decided not to race in Montreal. It was a brave decision by the Mexican, made after driving in Friday practice and not feeling completely recovered.

You might expect an F1 driver to race come what may, but Perez is a thoughtful driver and knowing yourself and backing your decision in such a pressurised environment is a sign of maturity not all young drivers possess. He will be back in Valencia and having impressed early in the season don't be surprised if he does it once again.

It's nice to see Button in such a good place and perhaps current teammate Lewis Hamilton should take note