Defending F1 World Champion Jenson Button has confessed that having triumphed in Monaco and having claimed the crown at the highest level last year, 'the one thing missing' from his career CV is victory in front of his adoring partisan supporters in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone – a statistic he hopes to rectify this coming weekend.
To do so, the McLaren-Mercedes star must improve substantially on his previous best finish around the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing', for from ten previous starts there he has yet to take the chequered flag any higher than fourth – and that coming in 2004, during a campaign in which he ascended the podium on no fewer than ten occasions.
Last season, as he sped to world championship glory with Brawn GP, difficulty in getting heat into his tyres on a cool mid-summer afternoon saw Button's streak of six victories from the opening seven grands prix and an unbroken run of rostrum finishes come to a shuddering and crushingly disappointing halt on home turf, as he could only qualify and finish in a lowly sixth place, whilst Brawn GP team-mate Rubens Barrichello wound up three spots better in third.
Fast forward twelve months, and the 30-year-old is now returning to Silverstone sitting a close second in the title chase, just six points behind McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, and with the Woking-based outfit planning to introduce an upgrade to its MP4-25 – including, most significantly of all, a Red Bull Racing-inspired exhaust-blown rear end – that it is hoped will help to propel the duo to the front of the grid and top of the podium.
Expectations are undeniably high – and so too, therefore, is the pressure upon the two drivers' shoulders – but rather than crumbling underneath the weight of it as England's football team arguably did in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa last month, Button is confident that he will merely be boosted by the fervour as he chases the dream of leading only the second home-grown one-two on British soil in the last 45 years, following on from the 1999 edition when David Coulthard and Eddie Irvine dominated.
“I've won in Monaco and I've won the world championship, so winning my home grand prix is the one thing that is missing from my CV,” the Frome-born ace told Press Association Sport
. “We all want to win our home grand prix, but especially the British because there are so many British supporters out there and a lot of British teams.
“Racing in front of your home crowd is one of the biggest buzzes for any racing driver, and racing at Silverstone is always an exceptional experience – the crowds are huge throughout the weekend, everybody absolutely knows their stuff and the motivation and support you get is like nowhere else on earth. The British Grand Prix is a bit of a festival of motorsport – there's a great atmosphere there, a party vibe, and you meet people who have supported you throughout your career, which is always very rewarding. I love it!
“Of course, the big unknown for this year is the new track configuration. On paper, it looks to have kept most of the classic corners, which is important. We've lost Bridge, but we've still got Copse, Becketts and Stowe, which is great. There's no substitute for actually driving it, though, and a new circuit is always great fun to try out and get to grips with, so I can't wait for Friday morning!
“Even though I came to Silverstone last year as the championship leader, I still haven't won this race. I'm second this year, and I can think of nothing better than being able to take a win in front of my home crowd – that would be amazing. Winning your home grand prix is very special, it's something I would love to do before the end of my career – and I think this year we have a great opportunity. I'm a British fan, but I don't just want a British winner – I want to win myself.
“I've a lot of competition with Lewis because he's very quick; in the last few races he has finished in front of me, albeit just in front of me, but he has finished in front of me – so I want to win the grand prix. I'm sure Lewis does [too]. He won't feel any different to me, so we are going to go out there and have some fun and hopefully one of us will win it.
“Lewis and I have achieved a lot in the sport already, so we are used to having pressure on our shoulders from outside and within. I won't feel under pressure more so there than anywhere else, at least I don't think so. Instead, I am really excited about being there and seeing so many British fans, I really am, about seeing them in the grandstands with loads of Union Jacks. It's a very special grand prix, and I think this year it's going to be more special than it has been for a long, long time.”