Jenson Button has to elevate his status from a good driver to a great driver at BAR this year, says Renault technical director Mike Gascoyne.

Jenson Button will need to elevate his status from a good driver to a great driver at BAR this year, says Renault technical director Mike Gascoyne.

Speaking in response to a statement made by Button’s BAR team-mate, Jacques Villeneuve, last week - Gascoyne said the young Briton needed to prove his worth on track this year.

Villeneuve said that Button would have to drive well to earn his respect and Gascoyne, who worked with Button at Benetton, which became Renault, from 2001 to last year, thinks the young Briton needs to raise his performance.

"Jenson is one of those drivers who you could put in a Ferrari and watch him win races and the world championship," he said, "But so could a lot of them out there. He's done three years in Formula One, and he's done a reasonably good job."

Gascoyne admitted that Benetton's 2001 car was uncompetitive but Button's then-team mate, Giancarlo Fisichella, performed much better. Gascoyne said Button could win if he had a good car: "We gave him a bad car, sure, and you needed to be experienced to handle that kind of situation," he said.

"Long term, if Jenson has a good car, he is capable of winning races. But as I say, so are a lot of them. Does he have the extra spark? He's got that to go and prove."

Villeneuve was upset that he, the 1997 World Champion, was being compared to Button on the same level by the media and has been reserved in his judgment of his team mate's performance. Several people have said that Button may find it hard to cope with the Canadian's attitude and has a lot to prove.

"He's up against Villeneuve, who is a guy who has won a world championship," said Gascoyne. "Good luck to him. He is a very nice and pleasant young man - but he has got to go out there and perform at that higher level now."