Jenson Button is more than capable of gathering himself together and getting his Formula 1 World Championship challenge on-track again between now and season's end to make it back-to-back British successes in the top flight – that is the view of 1996 title-winner Damon Hill, who predicts a thrilling end to the 2009 campaign.
Following his early-season flourish – triumphing six times from the opening seven races – Button has now not mounted the rostrum at all since Istanbul back in June, and indeed has notched up a mere eleven points from the last five outings. That compares to respectively 21, 24 and 24 for closest challengers Rubens Barrichello, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber – meaning with five grands prix remaining and an ever-more precarious-looking advantage, the Brawn GP star's bid for glory is threatening to derail. Hill, however, is confident it will not ultimately come to that.
“I wouldn't put it that strongly,” the 49-year-old told Crash.net Radio
, when asked if his countryman is on the verge of throwing away what is comfortably the best opportunity he has ever had of lifting the laurels. “I think he's had a mid-season lull, but it was difficult to keep up the rate of success that he enjoyed back at the start of the season. He still has a lead, and I think you'll find that things will pick up towards the end of the season.
“I think it's a good thing that there are more contenders in the championship fighting over race wins, which plays into his favour a little bit, but I'm sure he'll want to establish himself as a true champion and go and win some more races. I think he's going to fight really hard now to hold onto that championship, as well he would.
“I have to say, though, I am cheering bit for the old boys! Rubens is such a lovely guy, he races with his passion and he's shown that he's got the pace and that he's far from finished yet. I think that's terrific to see, and also it's thrown a bit more spice into the championship fight for us.”
Over in the Red Bull Racing garage, meanwhile, team principal Christian Horner is facing the dilemma of choosing which driver to back in the chase for the crown, with Vettel and Webber currently separated by a scant 1.5 points in the German's favour, and the momentum between the pair see-sawing from one race to the next. Despite the fact that time is beginning to run out, Hill believes it is still too early to know in which of the two baskets the energy drinks-backed outfit's eggs should be placed.
“I think it would make sense if you're challenging for a world title that you put some emphasis on your lead driver,” the 22-time grand prix-winner acknowledged, “but I don't know if it's as easy as that. I think it's too close to call at the moment. They both still could win grands prix, and that's ten points – the possible swings are too big.
“Both Brawn and Red Bull will be working flat-out at the factory I would think between now and the end of the season, to find that extra bit of aero advantage or whatever they can find. It's going to be hard work.”
One interloper who could come into play in terms of influencing the title tussle, Hill adds, is reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who is refusing to altogether write off his own hopes of successfully defending his hard-fought drivers' trophy [see separate story – click here
] – “I think you have to talk positive; as long as it's possible, you have to go for that until it's over,” the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) President concurs – whilst the former Williams star also expressed his view on the Renault Singapore Grand Prix scandal that some fear may drive the Régie
out of the sport entirely...
“The only thing I'd say,” he mused, “is that if a racing driver was asked to crash his car and he actually did, then I'd have to raise serious questions about whether or not he should be racing at all...”
TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE