Jenson Button has vowed not to resort to Michael Schumacher-esque tactics in order to win the 2009 F1 Drivers' World Championship – adamant that 'it wouldn't mean so much' to him unless he clinches the crown 'fairly and squarely'.
Schumacher claimed the first of his record-breaking seven F1 titles in contentious circumstances – colliding with chief rival Damon Hill in the final race of the 1994 campaign in Adelaide, forcing both men out of the race and ensuring that he lifted the laurels by a single marker.
Three years later a similar coming-together with Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez conversely cost him the championship, whilst in his last season in 2006, the German legend again hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons by deliberately 'parking' his car in the closing moments of qualifying in order to block the track and preserve his pole position – an indiscretion for which he was subsequently sent to the back of the starting grid.
Indeed, the 91-time grand prix-winner's entire career was dogged by controversy and accusations of cheating in one form or another – as well as criticism for the manner in which he demanded number one treatment within his teams, invariably to the detriment of his team-mates, from JJ Lehto to Johnny Herbert and Eddie Irvine to Rubens Barrichello. Button is adamant that he would rather miss out on the ultimate prize than achieve it in a similar win-at-all-costs manner.
“That was Schumacher,” the British star is quoted as having said by The Sun
. “It's not me. It wouldn't mean so much to me if I forced another driver off or did something during the season like stopping the car on the circuit. You win it fair or there is no point.
“I have always had the same equipment as my team-mate, which is so important. It is great if you are a number one driver and you get the best of everything; it makes life easier, but it is not as sweet in the end.
“I would rather not win the championship unless I win it fairly and squarely. Otherwise you'd always think, 'I've got this title but I cheated'. What is the point of that? It is like doing a running race and taking a short-cut and getting a good time – you just don't do it.
“I know there is a lot of money involved in F1 but, still, it would be just like robbing a bank. If you've knocked someone off to win the championship, everyone knows you've done it. You say that people only remember who wins the championship, but I don't think that is quite true. They remember the person who wins it, but they remember how they won it.”
The Frome-born ace's words contradict the advice given to him by 1997 title-winner Villeneuve, who claimed that 'whoever wins the championship is a hero and the other one is a complete loser – no-one remembers the guy who lost' [see separate story – click here
], whilst his anti-cheating tirade echoes the recent outburst of the recovering Felipe Massa, who has hit out at Renault for having 'robbed' him of the 2008 crown over 'Singapore-gate' [see separate story – click here
Button currently sits 15 points ahead of Brawn GP team-mate Barrichello and 25 clear of Red Bull Racing rival Sebastian Vettel, his only remaining challenger for glory. The 29-year-old can put the destiny of the honours irrefutably beyond reach in this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka should he out-score Barrichello by five points or more – but that is something he has succeeded in doing only twice this season to-date, and it is the Brazilian who enters the race very much as the Brackley-based outfit's in-form contender.