Amidst the euphoria in Britain surrounding Jenson Button's sensational start to the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship campaign, Bernie Ecclestone has tempered celebrations somewhat with the suggestion that the Brawn GP star's dominance is actually beginning to hurt the sport rather than than boost it.
No driver has prevailed in six of the opening seven outings like Button has done since the legendary Michael Schumacher back in 2004, and the German's level of superiority was so acute that it led to spectators deserting the top flight in their droves. The top flight's influential ringmaster Ecclestone fears that should the existing trend continue, it could ultimately end up producing the same undesirable effect.
On present form, the Frome-born ace is likely to wrap up the title with several races to spare, depriving the end of the season of the tension and uncertainty that has characterised the past few years and kept fans gripped right up until the final lap of the final grand prix.
Ironically, under Ecclestone's controversial Olympic Games-style medals system billed for introduction in 2010, the 29-year-old would need to triumph just twice more this year to be assured of lifting the laurels – and the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive admitted that he hopes the opposition will be quick to up its game and provide the current runaway pace-setter with a decent fight.
“Very, very good result in one way,” he told the Daily Express
of Button having equalled in Istanbul a record previously held by only Schumacher and the late Jim Clark, “[but also] very, very bad.
“It is obviously super for him, but it is not great for the spectacle [or] the championship. You like to see superstars doing the job like this, but I wish there was a bit more of a challenge. [It] might come yet.”
Red Bull Racing rival Mark Webber, by contrast, was not so optimistic, acknowledging that whilst 'two DNFs changes things obviously...even if he (Button) is cruising and picks up a lot of results, not on the top step, it's going to be a long, long time for people to get that back'.
McLaren-Mercedes' struggling Lewis Hamilton, though, was full of praise for both the man who looks set to take his crown and also Button's most likely threat over the balance of proceedings in 2009, Webber's young RBR team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
“Jenson has absolutely earned it,” the nine-time grand prix winner told German newspaper Bild
. “For many years he has had to drive mediocre cars. I would like a car with the characteristics of the Brawn. It already has the super Mercedes engine in it, but I would add our KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) – and then we would only have to spray the car silver...
“As a driver, I think a lot of Sebastian. He is only 21-years-old, but the pressure on him must be huge – he can feel the pressure of Germany wanting a new Michael Schumacher...and maybe he will be that one day.”