Jenson Button's F1 career could have gone very differently, it transpires, had Peter Sauber been successful in securing his services for his eponymously-named team in 2003 – as the Austrian suggests that until now, the current F1 World Championship leader 'always managed to find the right team at the wrong time', causing his star to 'fade' somewhat.
Approaching the halfway stage of the 2009 campaign, Button holds a commanding 23-point advantage in the drivers' title standings over the closest of his pursuers, Brawn GP team-mate Rubens Barrichello – meaning he can effectively afford to finish as runner-up in each of the remaining ten grands prix and still lift the crown at the end.
That is a far cry from the 29-year-old's previous nine seasons at the highest level, when due largely to having had underperforming machinery at his disposal, the Frome-born ace was able to notch up but a single victory, in the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, as he looked in grave danger of going down in the sport's record books as just another 'nearly man'.
Button had arrived in the top flight with a bang, however, impressing greatly during his 'rookie' year with Williams back in 2000, and when he was unceremoniously dropped from Benetton (now Renault) by Flavio Briatore in favour of Fernando Alonso two years later, David Richards swooped to snap him up for BAR-Honda, where he has stayed ever since – through thick and thin.
Now, though, Sauber – founder of Munich and Hinwil-based BMW-Sauber – has revealed that he too tried to get Button's name on a contract, confessing to rating him very highly and classing him as a 'nice guy' to boot. Had the 65-year-old succeeded in his overtures, it is arguable that the British star's career could have followed an altogether different path.
“Button entered Formula 1 in 2000 as a super-talent,” wrote the man who sold the outfit to BMW at the end of 2005, in his regular column for Swiss newspaper Blick
. “At the end of 2002 I tried to get Button to Hinwil. Unfortunately, it didn't work.
“Somehow after that, however, he always managed to find the right team at the wrong time. His star was faded.”