His performances over the opening four grands prix of F1 2010 have done more for Jenson Button's reputation than the whole of his 2009 world championship-winning charge, argues David Coulthard – with BBC pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz adding that the nine-time grand prix-winner is 'different' both as a driver and as a man this year.
The only multiple winner of the season to-date – following brilliantly calculated, tactical and downright gutsy victories in Australia and China – Button heads back to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix and the beginning of the European leg of the campaign atop the drivers' standings, much as he did this time twelve months ago.
Not only that, but the British star has out-qualified his McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton three-one, out-witted his compatriot more often than not and defied all the cynics who only a matter of weeks ago had predicted that he would be gobbled up for breakfast by his title-winning predecessor. Now, indeed, it is those very same detractors who are being forced to gobble up their own words.
“I am fully aware that what I am about to say may come back to bite me, but here it is anyway – I told you so,” wrote Button's former rival, friend and 13-time grand prix-winner turned BBC F1
pundit David Coulthard in his regular blog for The Daily Telegraph
. “Dismissed by 90 per cent of fans prior to the start of the season, his performances this year have done more for his credibility than the entire 2009 championship-winning season put together.
“Then he was told he was only winning because of his Brawn machine. Now what can they say? That he has been lucky with the weather? The fact is, Jenson has proved he can handle the pressure of moving to a big team – alongside a world champion – and still do his thing. What we are seeing right now is a mature, confident driver – one who has experienced the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs – at peace with himself.”
Those sentiments are echoed by BBC F1
colleague Kravitz, who agrees that with the burden of still needing to prove himself having finally been lifted from his shoulders by dint of clinching the crown last year, the Frome-born ace is now more relaxed and confident – and as such even more the complete package than ever before.
“Certainly, Button's skill and application have come as a pleasant surprise to the McLaren team,” the Englishman wrote on his blog. “We spoke to chief engineer Phil Prew after the race [in Shanghai] and he admitted that, before the season, he would not have expected Button to have won half of the first four races for his new team.
“Bear in mind that Prew has been Lewis Hamilton's engineer ever since the youngster burst into F1 in 2007 and knows how good Hamilton is, so his regard for Button's driving carries considerable weight. In many respects, we're seeing a different Jenson Button this season, both in and out of the car.
“He's relaxed, brimming with confidence and secure in the knowledge he's with a solid team, whose car is not only quicker than the Brawn/Mercedes team he left, but who can also develop that package into the summer months and make it a true challenger to Red Bull on dry pace, rather than just a wet-weather wonder.”