Jenson Button was effusive in his praise for his Brawn GP team after scorching to pole position for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – admitting that he had forgotten what it felt like to see smiles in the garage and describing the result as absolute vindication for everyone having stuck together over the winter of discontent.
Three years on from his last pole position in Formula 1 – also at Albert Park, a circuit he confessed to not even particularly liking – the British star led team-mate Rubens Barrichello in a hugely popular lock-out of the front row of the starting grid where, he argues, the former Honda outfit wholeheartedly 'deserves to be'.
“The last five or six months have been so tough,” he reflected. “Going from not having a drive or any future in racing to putting it on pole here is just amazing, it really is, and I have got to give all credit to the team and Ross [Brawn] and Nick [Fry] for making this happen. To put the car on pole at our debut race is a fantastic achievement, and this is where we deserve to be after the tough times we have had.
“It has been a long time since we had a car that has been competitive – it is 2006 since I put it on pole here. Regarding what it is for the team to be here on the front row, it is incredible; it is very difficult to know the words to use really. The team as a unit have been fantastic; they have really stuck together over the tough winter, better than I have.
“There are a lot of people who stand by you which is fantastic, but there are obviously a few people that don't and they forget and they don't believe. The important thing is that the people within team believe – and that is all we care about.
“They have produced a car that is good at the moment, but I am sure we can make it a lot better. I think both of us (he and Barrichello) have done a good job this weekend so far considering the amount of mileage we have had in the car. You can say it is a very good car, but you still need to get the laps in and make it your own. This is a great moment – obviously not the most important moment of the weekend – but it is a good start.
“There will be a lot of happy faces, but not just in the team, I think. A lot of people have travelled this journey with us, so it is good to be here and going past the garage just after we weighed in and seeing the smiles on all the guys' faces. I didn't think that still existed, because you know it has been two years since we have been in a position where we have come out of the race and thought 'wow, that was fantastic'.
“I need to thank them for all the hard work over the difficult months, and roll on the season! I am so excited about this year. It is amazing what you can achieve when you have the package and a team you can believe in.”
That much is evident, and Button confessed that he knew the new, Mercedes-powered BGP 001 was a contender from the minute he first drove it – even if he hadn't anticipated Brawn's rivals giving the team quite such a challenge in qualifying Down Under. He added that he expected brake wear over the circuit's bumps and tyre management in the cooler conditions induced by the later start time to be the key issues on race day.