Defending F1 World Champion Jenson Button has warned his rivals that he will be working harder than ever and still has room to improve as a driver heading into 2010 – as he aims to make history by becoming the first British contender in the history of the top flight to claim the title in back-to-back seasons.
After years spent behind the wheel of uncompetitive machinery undignified of his talent – and during which time his stock within the sport deteriorated to such an extent that far from being considered a world champion in-waiting any longer, he had come to be labelled with the unenviable 'journeyman' tag – Button finally broke through in 2009, benefitting from the best car in the field in the Brawn GP BGP 001 and just as importantly making the best use of it, with six victories from the opening seven grands prix firmly paving the way to a successful bid for glory.
Whilst his form fluctuated as Brawn's competitors first closed the gap and then overtook the Brackley-based outfit in terms of outright pace, the Frome-born ace's consistency was impressive nonetheless, and a battling fifth place from 14th on the grid in the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos was enough to clinch the crown one round early.
With his tail up and buzzing at the prospect of entering the 2010 campaign as the man everybody else has to beat, the 30-year-old is effusive about his new challenge, even if it is one that many feel could prove to be a bridge too far for him – taking on title-winning predecessor and compatriot Lewis Hamilton on the latter's home turf at McLaren-Mercedes.
“As a person I am a lot more confident than I was last year,” Button told the Daily Express
. “I deserved to be world champion, but there are still areas which I can improve on and that's great news for me – not so good for everyone else, but great for me. It's those areas that I've been chipping away at, to make sure that when I get to Bahrain I'm a better driver than I was when I finished the season in 2009. The confidence is there, and I think you will see that in my driving.
“I don't think [the expectation of winning the title] was a weight; it was more like achieving one's goal after so many years. I worked very hard last year, but I also think when you're with a team for so long – and nothing against Brawn, as they are a great team and I'm sure they are going to do amazing things again this year – it can get comfortable. It's like that comfort blanket when you were a kid; take it away and you're a bit vulnerable. [Moving to McLaren] is exciting. It's a challenge to go and find something new, and that's exactly what I feel I have now.
“I feel so excited about the new challenge, you would not believe. I wake up early in the morning and get excited about how I am going to improve my performance and improve the team. I think I bring a lot of experience of working with different teams in the past – not just with Brawn, Honda and BAR but with previous teams. They understand how dedicated I have become, how focussed I am on working; I'm not going to just sit back, let them build a car and I drive it.
“For the last few months I have been thinking about 2009. Everyone has been asking how it felt to be world champion and asking me about last year. It's good to remember the past – you should never forget what you have achieved – but sometimes you need to cut off and look to the future.”