Jenson Button has hit back at comments made by Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore suggesting neither he nor Brawn GP team-mate Rubens Barrichello would be a deserving Formula 1 World Champion in 2009 – revealing that the Italian 'needs to remember that he tried to employ me for this year...'
Briatore was scathing in his attack on the new formbook in the top flight [see separate story – click here
], with the three 'double-decker' diffuser teams – Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams – seeming to have usurped Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes and Renault at the top of the tree, despite sharing just two victories between them from 2004 to 2008.
“The drivers in our teams have been and are world champions,” the recently-turned 59-year-old had told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport
, “and yet the title is being fought between one driver who is a semi-pensioner and another who is a decent bloke but is like a roadside post.
“I don't know what that does for [F1's] credibility. It is impossible to make up the gap between us and the diffuser teams.
“In three or four grands prix the championship will be over, and I don't see the interest from television and the spectators' point-of-view in watching a grand prix when Button has 60 points and [Williams' Kazuki] Nakajima [has] 50 points. It would be better to listen to it on the radio and watch something else.”
Button, however – who leads the drivers' world championship chase after triumphing in both Australia and Malaysia, and is the odds-on favourite to make it a hat-trick of glories in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai this weekend – brushed aside Briatore's acerbic remarks as merely bitterness that his own team, Renault, is currently languishing down the order.
The 29-year-old British star also claimed that the attack was in poor taste given the nightmare that Brawn GP had to endure over the winter months and an insult to the Brackley-based outfit's workforce, which never once yielded in its efforts to make it onto the starting grid in Melbourne with a car capable of fighting at the front following two years spent distinctly in the doldrums in the guise of Honda F1. And besides, Briatore, he claims, made a play to secure his services for 2009 – 'roadside post' or no.
“Unless he is at the front, I am sure [he thinks] any team [being there] hurts the credibility of F1,” the Frome-born ace is quoted as having said by ITV-F1
. “He also needs to remember that he tried to employ me for this year...
“He is obviously a very angry man after the diffuser issues and he is obviously very disappointed that they haven't produced a car that is as competitive as ours.
“We have produced a very competitive car because of the workforce we have back at Brackley, and you cannot take it away from them – it is very unfair to say that. They have worked very, very hard in very difficult circumstances and it is very, very unfair for Flavio to comment as he has just because he is a little bit bitter.”
Button shared a fractious relationship with the famously fickle and irascible Briatore when he drove for Benetton/Renault in 2001 and 2002.