Jenson Button has admitted that he can scarcely wait to get out on-track for this weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, as he is champing at the bit to experience the new layout for the first time and perform in front of his adoring partisan supporters at what he calls 'the home of motorsport'.
Button will enter the tenth round on the 2010 F1 World Championship calendar sitting a close second in the chase for the coveted crown, just six points adrift of McLaren-Mercedes team-mate, compatriot and title-winning predecessor Lewis Hamilton.
Whilst his fellow Brit has triumphed on home turf before, though – when he literally left all his rivals at sea in the rain-lashed 2008 edition of the race – the defending world champion has yet to finish any higher than fourth in ten previous appearances in the British Grand Prix, and he is adamant that now is the time to set that somewhat unflattering record to rights.
“I love the British Grand Prix,” the 30-year-old enthused. “I love the atmosphere. There are a few races you go to around the world where there is a very special atmosphere, and Silverstone is one of them. There's a full house there, it's the home of British motorsport – and the home of motorsport [in general] I feel, too.
“This is one of the best circuits in the world in a racing car! Silverstone has always been a very fast and flowing circuit, dating back to when it was built. On the one hand, the changes do take away from the flow a little bit if I'm honest, but on the other hand they add something too with a couple of new slow-speed corners. Overtaking still won't be easy, though, because F1 cars remain very difficult to follow if nobody makes a mistake.
“The new Brooklands is really difficult to get right; there are two kerbs when you turn-in, and the first one is nothing to do with the corner, which makes it easy to lock-up there and run wide. It's a really fun corner. The new Club won't be all that different to before, but the new right-left kink is going to be flat-out and is pretty bumpy – you'll see a few cars out-of-shape through there. Hopefully we will see a really exciting race this weekend. I've heard fans can now get quite a lot closer to the action, which is what we want also.”
What those fans are eagerly awaiting, of course, is a duel for the top step of the podium between Button and Hamilton. It has been pointed out that the last time McLaren fielded two world champions together as team-mates – Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost just over two decades ago – it ended in acrimony and tears, and 1996 title-winner Damon Hill has suggested that as the stakes increase, the present rivalry too could be about to 'boil over' [see separate story – click here
]. The Frome-born ace is adamant it will not come to that, and that the two countrymen will continue to race each other hard – but entirely fair.
“We are both winners and we both want to win,” acknowledged the nine-time grand prix-winner. “We are here to fight against each other – that's what you do in F1. We all want to be the best, and we are going to fight it out. We would all love to win our home grand prix – that's something I would love to achieve whilst I'm still racing in F1 – but Lewis and I have a lot of respect for each other as we showed in Turkey. We fight hard but we don't touch.
“You have friends in F1 – you are friends with a lot of the other drivers you're racing against – but at the end of the season, you want to be the best, not just over your team-mate but over the whole grid. We are both very competitive and we both want to win, but as we've said before, first of all we have to work together to improve the car.
“I think we've done a great job this year of pushing each other very hard, not just on the circuit but also off the circuit developing the car and set-up. We've got a good relationship, and I'm sure that's going to continue. If we are both quick, we are going to be racing wheel-to-wheel and we have had a bit of fun over the last couple of races – although maybe not as much fun as some other teams have had...”