Much is expected of Honda Racing and its dream-team lineup of the ever-consistent Jenson Button, and proven race-winner Rubens Barrichello, in 2006. However, some believe Button will be comprehensively eclipsed by his Brazilian team-mate – and that this year could herald the decline of the Briton’s F1 career.
By Mike Fourie, News Ed.
Much is expected of Honda Racing and its dream-team lineup of the ever-consistent Jenson Button, and proven race-winner Rubens Barrichello, in 2006. However, some F1 observers – most notably former F1 journeyman and infamously-almost world champion Eddie Irvine – believe Barrichello will comprehensively eclipse Button – and that this year could herald the decline of the Briton’s F1 career.
When CARtoday.com interviewed Button (whose late granny was a South African, for those who are interested in F1 trivia) in 2004, the Briton had just finished a credible second in the German Grand Prix, behind the all-conquering Ferrari F2004 of Michael Schumacher and of Fernando Alonso’s Renault.
BAR Honda, then under the leadership of David Richards, finished second in the 2004 constructor’s championship… Last year promised to be a breakthrough for the Brackley-based team, but it didn’t turn out that way. Nick Fry took the helm, there was the secondary fuel tank disqualification fiasco at Imola, and despite qualifying on the front row four times (he had pole in Canada, but crashed out), Button’s best finishes were a pair of third positions.
In search of elusive first grand prix win
Button remains the United Kingdom’s best hope for world championship glory (the evergreen David Coulthard may disagree!) and the darling of the British motorsport press. Yet, on the eve of his sixth season in Formula One, Button has yet to win a grand prix… and that’s hardly the pedigree of a future champion.
SA grand prix fans are subjected to the national bias of British ITV commentators during virtually every grand prix broadcast. We are told Button is the quintessential gentleman, a conscientious scholar of his craft and a painfully precise driver, but that the chassis of his BAR is aerodynamically inefficient or just inferior. Others say Button would have won several grands prix had it not been for bad luck or technical problems. Then there are those who claim the Briton lacks killer instinct (he’s just nice).
Getting bogged down in off-the-scene stuff
Don’t be mistaken, Button is a dream for any public relations team and he is remarkably demure compared with some racing drivers I’ve interviewed. However, ever since the Briton revealed in his interview that he wouldn’t necessarily stick with BAR (ostensibly following yet another fall-out with Richards), Button has been on the back foot.