After seven years in the same surroundings, you might think that moving somewhere new would take a bit of getting used to, but reigning F1 World Champion Jenson Button insists that he 'already feels at home' at McLaren-Mercedes – and if he acknowledges that he has much still to learn, he admits that the whole experience is 'exhilarating'.
After clinching the crown at the end of a fairytale campaign with Brawn GP that began as a nightmare and ended as a dream, Button surprised practically the whole paddock by electing to jump ship to join compatriot and title-winning predecessor Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, what some have likened to entering the lion's den and offering himself up to be eaten alive, given that his new team-mate has effectively had his feet under the table at Woking for more than a decade.
However, the seven-time grand prix-winner is adamant that his decision was motivated primarily by the desire to set himself a new challenge, and not for financial reasons as some have surmised. A challenge surely awaits him – but as the 29-year-old appeared in his new colours for the first time, he made it clear that it is one he is eagerly relishing.
“Obviously, it's fantastic to be part of one of the most famous names in Formula 1,” Button enthused, “and it's also exhilarating. I'd been at the same team for seven years so this is a big cultural change for me, and something that I'm really looking forward to.
“There are a lot of new faces to remember and lots of names to learn – and that's all got to be done alongside the engineering and limited testing we have ahead of the 2010 season – but I'm loving every minute of it! The atmosphere within the team feels fantastic, and I've already started to feel at home here. I can't wait to get out in the fantastic new car the team has built for me!
“Having no testing until the first week of February is something of a mixed blessing; it gives me the time to really get to know the guys at McLaren-Mercedes, and to properly integrate myself into the team – which I am absolutely committed to doing – but, equally, it's another month without any running in the car, and getting miles under my belt will be crucial ahead of the first race.
“It's only natural that there will be a lot of factory-based work for the next few weeks. I'll be starting to work with my engineers, who are a fantastic bunch of guys, but honestly, I really cannot wait to get out to Valencia and get my first run in the MP4-25 – I think that's when it will finally sink in that I'm a McLaren-Mercedes driver.”
Not only will Button have to measure himself against Hamilton in 2010 – the man some hold to be the fastest driver in F1 – but he will also have the weight of expectation upon his shoulders of endeavouring to defend his 2009 crown. Revealing that he will not be putting himself under any undue pressure to successfully achieve that goal, the Frome-born ace does concede that a fast start out of the blocks – like that which he made last year – could well be pivotal.
“Obviously, my aim is to keep the number one on my car for as long as possible,” he confessed, “but at the moment it's a little bit too early to start talking about the world championship. The backbone of any title challenge is built on good preparation, hard word, focus and dedication – and the hard work starts here.
“The next ten weeks could well largely dictate the destiny of the 2010 world championship, so it's crucial that we start testing very strongly and that we never let up. I'm more motivated than ever to work with the team and my engineers, and I'm extremely positive for the year ahead.”