Fresh from his Interlagos success, newly-crowned F1 World Champion Jenson Button has vowed to break the mould by doing something no British driver at the highest level has ever accomplished before – claiming back-to-back title glories by winning again in 2010.
By taking the chequered flag fifth in the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of an impressively combative and aggressive performance from 14th on the grid, Button did enough to wrap up the laurels with one race to spare, having led the standings from the word 'go' in 2009 following his Australian Grand Prix success Down Under in Melbourne all the way back in March.
Though the Brawn GP star has not triumphed since the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul more than four months ago – and indeed has ascended the rostrum only once in the intervening nine outings, at Monza in September – his risk-taking drive with everything at stake in São Paulo silenced the doubters and critics who had claimed that he would consequently be an undeserving champion.
In sealing the deal, the 29-year-old became the tenth of his countrymen to lift the honours, following in the wheel tracks of F1 greats Mike Hawthorn (1958), Graham Hill (1962, 1968), Jim Clark (1963, 1965), John Surtees (1964), Sir Jackie Stewart (1969, 1971, 1973), James Hunt (1976), Nigel Mansell (1992), Damon Hill (1996) and Lewis Hamilton (2008). None of the previous nine, however, managed to triumph in consecutive seasons – leaving Button with a clear objective for 2010, towards which his attentions have already been turned.
“No British driver has ever won back-to-back titles,” the 31st man to claim the F1 World Championship crown is quoted as having said by the BBC
, “so that's an ambition. This team is not a one-hit wonder, and neither am I. It's great to win the world championship, and every person that's done it will tell you that – but to be able to defend it is exceptional.”
McLaren-Mercedes compatriot Hamilton can doubtless corroborate that following his own defence this year – enduring a torrid first half to the campaign that saw him notch up just nine points from the opening nine grands prix as he grappled with a distinctly uncompetitive car beneath him – but one stumbling block at the moment is that Button has still to ink a new contract with Brawn, with an ongoing dispute over his financial requirements understood to be the key sticking point in negotiations.
Button accepted a significant £5 million pay cut last winter to help the Brackley-based outfit to stay afloat and rise phoenix-like from the ashes in the wake of parent company Honda's sudden and shock withdrawal at the end of 2008 – but despite the team now being rather healthier in terms of its finances as a result of Virgin's involvement and its outstanding run of success, it appears there is an unwillingness to re-instate his erstwhile salary. Not so, insists the Frome-born ace, who contends that both sides have simply been waiting for the right time to sit down and hammer out the finer details.
“I would like to stay with Brawn,” the seven-time grand prix-winner underlined. “The team might have changed names and it might have shrunk in size, but I love the atmosphere of this team and the way that we all pull together in the difficult times – and we've been through a lot of difficult times in the past.
“We've been waiting until now to discuss the future; it's the perfect thing to do. It's not about the money. I want to be with a team that can win. I have become world champion with a team that nobody ever thought would win the championship – especially in their first year – but there are many things that we need to talk about. We've achieved so much together, we respect each other very much and it's just that the talks haven't taken place.”
Brawn also comfortably clinched the constructors' title at Interlagos, the culmination of a rollercoaster year that saw the team's entry only finally confirmed just three weeks prior to the start of the season thanks in large part to the support and investment of engine-supplier – and quite likely future partner and majority shareholder, if paddock speculation is to be believed – Mercedes-Benz.