Newly-crowned F1 World Champion Jenson Button has admitted that try as he might, he could not prevent himself from 'thinking about celebrations' before he even took the chequered flag in fifth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix to achieve his lifelong dream of getting to the very pinnacle of international motorsport.
Button's effusive rendition of the Queen classic 'We are the Champions' on the slowing-down lap at Interlagos earlier this month will go down in F1 history, after the four points he secured in São Paulo proved enough to put the coveted title beyond the reach of Red Bull Racing rival Sebastian Vettel and Brawn GP team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who finished respectively fourth and a delayed eighth following a late-race puncture.
For all that he has appeared the model of composure throughout 2009, however – rarely committing an error on-track and achieving his championship success by dint of a staggeringly consistent run, as no other driver has finished inside the points as often as he has – the tenth Brit to lift the ultimate laurels has confessed that he was struggling to keep his feelings in-check around what he has described as 'the most important lap of his career'.
“It was a pretty long last lap,” the 29-year-old acknowledged, “but I didn't mind that. At that moment it's very difficult to hold emotion back, to try and think 'just do the lap and then we can celebrate'. You're already thinking about celebrations before you get to the line, and I was trying to stop myself from doing that and just trying to stay calm in the car, but it's very, very difficult.
“You're listening to everything that's happening with the car. We've been so reliable this year, but you still worry. That lap is the most important lap of my career, so I was speaking to the engineers asking 'Is everything okay with the car? Is everything okay? Do you want me to turn down the engine to make it easier?' and they said 'No, everything's good, just drive as you are', so I did and I crossed the line and became world champion.”
It was indeed a seminal moment in the career of a driver who many opined had missed the boat following too many years spent behind the wheel of a string of less-than-competitive machinery. With no fewer than seven grand prix wins now under his belt – and aiming for an eighth in the inaugural F1 race to be held in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi this weekend – the Frome-born ace has answered his critics in some style.
Much of the credit for that, he underlines, must go to engine-supplier Mercedes-Benz, whose involvement has not only been instrumental in Brawn GP's outstanding success this season, but also indeed saved the Brackley-based outfit from likely extinction in the first place following parent company Honda's sudden and shock withdrawal from competition late last year. What's more, all signs now point to the Stuttgart manufacturer taking on an increasingly prominent role at the team in the future.
“Mercedes-Benz came along and offered us the opportunity to have the best engine in F1,” Button praised. “The Mercedes has been fantastic – we noticed that last year. It's not just the speed of the engine, either; it's the reliability. During the season, touch wood, we haven't had one reliability issue with the engine, so they deserve a big round of applause for having done a great job. We've worked together so well over this season, considering it's been such a short period of time. It's a good partnership.”
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