Two weeks ago, his future in Formula One still appeared to be hanging by the thinnest of threads, but Jenson Button insists that he can return to the top step of the podium after just two days in the cockpit of the new Brawn GP entry.
The Briton stunned onlookers when, after just a shakedown at Silverstone on Friday, he topped the morning session on day one of the latest group test in Barcelona. The BGP001 eventually ended the opening day in fourth spot, but the immediate success left a positive impression on a man who has just one F1 win under his belt.
Despite being linked to the seats at Scuderia Toro Rosso - a team which, ironically, made its first test outing with a pukka 2009 car at the same time as Brawn GP - Button remained loyal to the then Honda concern, all the while knowing that if no rescue package could be pieced together, he was facing a year, at least, on the sidelines. In then end - indeed, at the end - it all came good and the Briton's patience was rewarded when former Honda team principal Ross Brawn was named as the new owner of the franchise - and promptly wheeled out what appears to be a competitive car.
Much has been made of what it cost Brawn and Honda respectively to keep the team on the grid, but Button, too, was also rumoured to have taken a sizeable pay cut in order to facilitate the rescue bid.
''We all have to make sacrifices,'' he told Reuters
after play ended at the Circuit de Catalunya, ''It's a very different situation now than what it was a year ago, but that doesn't mean anything to me because I want to race.
''What would I do sat at home? There's nothing out there for me at the moment. I'm 29 years old, still a kid in my eyes, and I've still a lot to prove in Formula One. In five or six years, if [Honda pulling out] happened then, I might walk away and look to do something else, but that's not my aim at the moment. It's to be here on the grid and show I can win races - and, with Brawn GP, there's a good possibility of that in the future.''
Button admitted that seeing Brawn take over at the helm, and as more than just team principal, had been a major boost to his morale, which had been battered by two tough years in uncompetitive machinery with Honda. The BGP001 is the first car to really take advantage of the former Ferrari technical director's experience and input, and Button is confident that he can add to his lone F1 success just over two years ago.
His new charge not only benefits from Brawn's input, however, but will also replace the Honda V8 with the competitive unit from Mercedes that powered Lewis Hamilton - who has stolen Button's thunder somewhat in the past two years - to the world title in 2008.
''I wouldn't say that, in the last few years, it all went a little bit stale but, when something happens like [Brawn taking over], it's like 'wow!' and it does become a fresh start,'' he admitted, ''I feel like a kid again, getting into a Formula One car, it's so exciting. It feels like 2000 again, but with nine years of experience, so it's the perfect position to be in. I have the experience, but I also have the hunger to achieve - and I'm not the only one that feels like that within the team. It's all of us, especially after having produced a car I think is competitive - and very different to the last two cars.''
Having created his morning surprise, Button wound up accepting fourth spot on the Barcelona timesheets with a lap of 1min 21.140secs, eight-tenths shy of pacesetter Nick Heidfeld, but a full second faster than the best he could manage with last year's Honda.
The Briton added that he hoped Brawn GP would make a 'respectable' start to the season in Australia, while observers hope that Monday's test performance was not purely the result of the team aiming to create headlines in order to attract much-needed sponsorship.....