Jenson Button will reach a milestone at the Hungaroring on Sunday, as he celebrates his 200th grand prix start around the same circuit at which he claimed his breakthrough F1 victory five years ago – and the McLaren-Mercedes star admits that after his torrid run of late in 2011, he would love to turn the tide 'on such a special weekend'.
Button debuted in F1 in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne back in 2000, and following several seasons of nearly-but-not-quite, it was not until the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix – his 113th start in the top flight, and just the kind of wet/dry race in which he traditionally excels – that he finally succeeded in reaching the highest step of the rostrum with Honda.
The weather forecast is uncharacteristically mixed once again in Budapest half-a-decade on – and the 2009 world champion concedes that he wouldn't mind a touch of precipitation on race day one little bit.
“I've got very good memories of 2006,” he reminisced. “[It was] obviously a long time ago now, but it's the perfect place for me to have my 200th grand prix, I suppose. The last couple of races have been a bit difficult in terms of not finishing, so hopefully we can have a good result here on such a special weekend.
“Rain would be a lot of fun around here. We've been here in the wet before, and for me, it was one of the best races I've been involved in and actually watched back, because there was a lot of overtaking, a lot of fighting. Yeah, it brings something to the race, but I think even in the dry, wet or intermediate conditions we've got to make sure we're quick.
“Lewis [Hamilton – team-mate] proved at the last race the pace of the car is very good in dry conditions, in cool conditions. I also think we'll be there in hot conditions. Whatever the weather does, we've got to be ready for it. I agree that when it's mixed conditions here, it's fun.”
The race to which Button alludes was last weekend's German Grand Prix, in which there was little to choose between the McLaren MP4-26, the Ferrari F150° Italia and the Red Bull Racing RB7 in terms of outright pace, as Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber ran nose-to-tail for a number of laps at the Nürburgring. The 2009 F1 World Champion agrees that such a scenario bodes well indeed for the remainder of the campaign.
“I think it's a great time for F1, to have three top teams fighting at the front,” he enthused. "We've had four different winners from the last four races, and hopefully we will have a great race here. As we've said, we don't know who is going to be the most competitive.
“It was great to see three teams fighting for victory at the last race, and hopefully it's going to be the same thing here; hopefully, there will be six of us really at the front with a chance of victory. That's what we all love doing; we all love the challenge, and hopefully we will get the chance to fight for it here.