Former F1 World Champion Damon Hill has likened the battle developing between countrymen Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren this year to that between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at the same team just over two decades ago – only without the bitter and ultimately destructive edge.
Against most pre-season expectations, Button currently has two victories to his name from the opening four grands prix of F1 2010 to Hamilton's none, though the latter has in his defence provided much of the entertainment factor in the top flight so far this year, courtesy of his stunning charges up the order and aggressive overtaking moves – albeit not always appreciated by the 25-year-old's rivals.
Moreover, it is Button and not Hamilton who will arrive at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona next weekend for the beginning of the European leg of the campaign atop the title standings, much as he did last year, defying those who had suggested he would be eaten alive for having displayed the brazen audacity to enter the lion's den in 'Hamilton's team' at Woking and believe he could get the better of the well-established incumbent.
Button's smooth, calculated driving style and acute tactical nous have been compared in some quarters to Prost – a man dubbed 'The Professor' for making it look as if he was barely even trying, and producing a lightning-quick time from what appeared to be a slow lap – whilst Hamilton's balls-out, take-no-prisoners combative approach is arguably reminiscent of Senna's relentless, occasionally win-at-all-costs attitude.
Button has thus far emerged ahead, but Hill is convinced Hamilton will bounce back in the races to come and rediscover his winning ways – without the pair's current easy-going friendship and camaraderie being replaced along the way by the kind of acrimonious enmity and all-out warfare that came to characterise their predecessors' relationship.
“They've been around in the same arena, so they understand the game very well and they're both sportsmen,” the 1996 title-winner and British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) President told media at the official unveiling of Silverstone's new 'Arena Grand Prix' circuit. “They want to win, but they're guys who have their heads on straight. They know what it's all about, and there's definitely a good chance Britain is going to have another world champion this season – it's an exciting-looking season.
“In terms of their respective styles of driving, they are very different; it is a little bit like having Prost and Senna in the same team – but I think they get on a bit better than those two, thankfully! I think Jenson has got style and maturity in his driving, and he doesn't need to prove anything to anyone now he is world champion. He's starting to enjoy himself, and when you get someone in that zone they can be quite impenetrable. As for Lewis, I sense he feels a little frustrated that he has had a bit of bad luck in a couple of races – but he will definitely be back in the frame very soon.”