Jenson Button has hinted that he could more than happily see out the remainder of his F1 career with McLaren-Mercedes – even if he concedes that back when he joined the grand prix grid just over a decade ago, he 'never thought' he would one day end up at the Woking-based outfit.
Button made a shock switch from Brawn GP – the team with which he had claimed the 2009 F1 World Championship crown – to McLaren at the end of that season, on a multi-year deal that it is understood will expire at the end of 2012.
On the same weekend as his team-mate Lewis Hamilton re-pledged his continued commitment to the multiple world championship-winning operation following speculation linking him to rivals Red Bull Racing [see separate story – click here
], Button has reiterated that he is far from done with F1 yet – and that the atmosphere and team spirit at McLaren, especially in the face of adversity, are such that he could not envisage himself anywhere else.
“I've a few years that I still want to race in F1,” the 31-year-old British star told Reuters
. “I'm sure it will come to a point with me where I'll think, 'right, I don't want to do anymore, I want to do something else' – [but] that point isn't yet, and I can't even imagine it happening yet. I'll be here for a couple more years.
“I can't imagine going somewhere else in F1 after McLaren – I'm really happy here – [although] when I was younger, at the start of my years in F1, I never thought I'd drive for McLaren.
“When something goes wrong, there is no finger-pointing – you talk about it. For instance, (technical director) Paddy [Lowe] will come up to me and say, 'I'm so sorry, this isn't what we want, and what we want you to see either – we're going to get back on-track'. They really tell you what is happening; they don't keep you in the dark. They really involve you in everything they do. For me, that is great. I love being involved in what is happening within a team. It's important to me that I'm not just doing the driving.”
Button also warned Hamilton that he would likely find 'a surprise' and encounter 'a very different environment' at another team [see separate story – click here
], and having now re-assured McLaren of his ongoing loyalty, the man who finished as runner-up to Sebastian Vettel in Sunday's F1 2011 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne has revealed that he can see himself copying the great Michael Schumacher by racing on in the top flight into his 40s, quipping that 'black don't crack'.
“I could be here even longer than Michael,” the 26-year-old is quoted as having said by The Sun
. “My dad looks just as young as Michael – he could be racing right now – and I know that I will look younger than my dad, because I've worked harder on my fitness. That's what I keep telling him!
“I can't rule anything out. I love racing, so as long as I'm fit and enjoying what I'm doing, then it's not a job – and I'm good at it and will continue to do it. Black don't crack, as they say!
“The sky's the limit – [I want] as many titles as I can get in the time I'm here. You look at Sébastien Loeb, Valentino Rossi, Michael, the legendary racers from their eras and I would love to be part of that. I'm not saying eight world championships is what I want, though – I've always wanted to win three like Ayrton Senna. I've always wanted to emulate him, but I'm focussing on what's important now – and that's winning the second world championship.”