Off the back of Jenson Button's incredible start to the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship – with now six victories to his name from the opening seven races and a commanding lead in the drivers' standings – Ross Brawn has candidly admitted that prior to the start of the season, he wasn't convinced the British star was quite so 'exceptional'.
Having risen phoenix-like from the ashes of what was Honda F1 after the Japanese parent company suddenly and unexpectedly pulled the plug back in December, Brawn GP is continuing to defy all conventional logic with its stellar performances.
Following Button's stunning drive to triumph in the Turkish Grand Prix at the weekend, the 29-year-old heads into his home event at Silverstone in just under a fortnight's time 26 points clear in the chase for the crown and firm favourite to follow in compatriot Lewis Hamilton's footsteps as F1 World Champion – with Brawn a similarly dominant 39.5 points to the good in the constructors' rankings. It is, the team principal acknowledges, a quite unbelievable story.
“It was a beautiful drive from Jenson, just perfect,” the Englishman enthused of his young charge's Istanbul success, “and obviously the mistake Sebastian [Vettel] made on the first lap left it completely open. We thought we were going to be fighting until the pit-stops; we knew we had a little bit more fuel than he had, and Jenson just managed it perfectly. It was a wonderful drive.
“He drives in a certain style that doesn't look hurried or fussy; he has a very, very smooth style, so even when he's going quick it looks very smooth, which makes it hard to tell when he's pushing – but of course he is. I actually gave him a hard time when he went off in practice, which was the first time this year he's gone off. It's remarkable, absolutely remarkable.
“We're really, really looking forward to the British Grand Prix; we seem to have picked up a lot of fans and supporters, and it will be really good to see them all there. We all know what we've been through, and for the team to produce the car that they did in the circumstances is incredible, but it's always this mix, this marriage of car and driver. The guys in the team told me Jenson was exceptional – I didn't see a lot of it last year, but now I believe them.”
In a show of mutual respect, Button has suggested that Brawn's form in Turkey was the best it has demonstrated yet this year, dismissing the notion that Vettel and Red Bull Racing failed to challenge him due to inferior tactics, in arguing that the Mercedes-powered BGP 001 was simply plain faster than its Renault-powered RB5 rival. Now he is just hoping that the tables will not be turned in front of his partisan home supporters at Silverstone.
“When I got off the line in second I was very happy,” related the Frome-born ace, “because starting P2 here is never a good thing. I thought our pace would be good, but I didn't really know what Sebastian's pace would be like because he hadn't really done that many laps this weekend. Then he made the mistake coming out of turn ten; he was pushing very hard on the first lap, and when he made the mistake it was a great opportunity for me.
“He was sat behind me for a couple of laps as I took it easy on the tyres because I didn't want to damage them, and then I started pushing. The car felt fantastic. In most races this year the car's felt pretty good – not far away from being great – but it's not been completely to my liking. Here the car was just fantastic, and I enjoyed every second of driving it and just wanted to carry on. In a lot of races this year, the Red Bulls have been on our pace – in Bahrain and Barcelona they were very quick, but they were held up by KERS cars. In this race I don't think the strategy really mattered, though – we were just too quick, full stop.