Recently-crowned 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button has for the first time admitted that he did suffer from stress, sleepless nights, doubts and weaknesses as he battled for the title this year – and at one stage even berated himself for producing a demonstration in 'how to lose a championship'.
Button finally sealed the deal in taking the chequered flag fifth in the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos just over a fortnight ago, following a feisty showing from a lowly 14th on the starting grid. However, since his last victory in the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul almost five months ago, the Brawn GP star has ascended the rostrum only twice, and has been routinely out-qualified and out-raced by team-mate Rubens Barrichello, causing some to question whether he was on a path of self-destruction as his advantage in the points table ebbed increasingly away.
Happily for the Briton – the tenth of his countrymen to lift the ultimate laurels – he pulled it all together again in time to fulfil his early-season promise, but he has now revealed that the composed public facade he maintained throughout his barren patch only served to conceal a man bedevilled by inner demons, fears, stress and doubts. He added that the unstinting faith displayed in him by team principal Ross Brawn had played a significant part in helping to guide him through his darkest days.
“You don't want to show that you're stressed,” Button told the News of the World
. “It's a weakness, and you bottle it up inside you. The championship is over almost ten months, and that's a long time to be on the edge of your seat. You go to sleep thinking about it; you wake up thinking about it.
“You sleep less, and when you are going out for qualifying so much runs through your mind. When you start worrying about things, that's when you want people around you who understand who you are.
“I spent a lot of time with Ross. We'd discuss Michael [Schumacher]'s years of fighting for the championship. It was good to hear Ross' view. He knows it's never easy in F1, even if you have a superior car. You can be a very positive person, but you still have doubts and weaknesses.”
Button explained that the nadir of his season came after qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix night race, for which he lined up just eleventh on the grid after his nerves again got the better of him – blasting over the pit-car radio afterwards that 'this is how to lose a championship!'
“Qualifying in the first half of the season was fantastic for me,” acknowledged the 29-year-old. “I did some very special laps – probably better than I ever have done in F1 – but then towards the end, when really I just had to do an average lap to get into the top ten, I pushed really hard.
“You want to be in front of your team-mate, you want to be close to the front, but just one lock-up can cost you ten places – and that's exactly what happened a couple of times. Even after qualifying in Brazil, it was the same situation. I thought 'this shouldn't be this difficult!' There were times when I thought the title had gone, [but] I turned it all around in the race. Every time I needed to make a move, it happened.”
Now that he has clinched the coveted crown, Button's next goal is to hammer out a satisfactory new deal with Brawn for F1 2010, after talks between the two parties hit deadlock over the Frome-born ace's desire to see his erstwhile £8 million salary – most of which he forsook to help the Brackley-based outfit remain afloat in the wake of parent company Honda's sudden and shock departure late last year – re-instated. It is understood that Mercedes-Benz is looking to buy a 75 per cent stake in Brawn, thereby bringing to a close the Stuttgart manufacturer's long and successful relationship with McLaren, of which it currently controls 40 per cent.