Johnny Herbert has joined the swell of opinion suggesting that, contrary to pre-season opinion, Jenson Button is more than holding his own at McLaren, the three-time grand prix winner claiming that it is Lewis Hamilton who is currently on the back foot.
Button currently leads the standings in defence of his 2009 world title, and has taken two well-judged wins in changing conditions, while Hamilton has a best of second to his team-mate in China to show from four races. While admitting that he too was initially wary of Button's decision to join his countryman at McLaren this year, Herbert believes that the former Williams, Benetton, BAR/Honda and Brawn driver now has the upper hand in Woking, despite McLaren having been thought of as 'Hamilton's team' in much the same way as Michael Schumacher dominated Ferrari.
"I think Jenson has achieved much more than I thought, only because he was going into Lewis's team," Herbert told ITV-F1
, "[Lewis is] happy with his team, they understand him, he understands them and they work very well together, while Jenson's coming into a brand new team after winning the championship last year. To be honest, I think that, after the lucky win in Australia - and it doesn't matter [that it was lucky] - that mentally helped him.
"I think the win that we saw in China was a massive one for [Button]. He outqualified [and] outraced Lewis and he's obviously got himself in the lead of the championship. I think this is probably a side I haven't seen from him, and that result I think has spurred him on massively."
Herbert went on to say that it was now down to Hamilton to respond and re-establish his position as team leader.
"Jenson's fitted in very well with the team," he underlined, "He didn't expect it maybe happen as quickly as it has up against the quality of Lewis, but he's done that, [and] he's put pressure on Lewis. Lewis hasn't been able to respond and, at the moment, I think [Button]'s only going to get stronger and stronger because I think his mind's in the right area at the moment. Lewis is the one who's under pressure. Lewis is in his team, let's say, but it's been taken over by a new Brit.
"As we look at it today, I think it's going in the direction of Jenson, but we have still got a long way to go. I think he's only going to grow and, by him growing, that's only going to make it more difficult for Lewis."