F1 » 15 October 2011
Button credits BAR boss for words of wisdom
Jenson Button reveals the pearls of wisdom that have helped him become a mainstay of the F1 paddock and a championship frontrunner.
Jenson Button has credited former BAR team boss David Richards for playing a part in his rise from talented point-scorer to F1 world champion and consistent frontrunner over the past six years.
The pair crossed paths as Button was looking to resurrect a career that had started in lights at Williams, but gone off the rails following an unwanted transfer to Benetton/Renault. Without the backing of Flavio Briatore, who branded him a 'lazy playboy', the Briton could have sunk without trace, but latched on to BAR where, with the support of Richards, he secured his place as a member of the F1 fraternity by out-performing BAR's blue-eyed boy, Jacques Villeneuve, in 2003 and taking the team to the dizzy heights of third in the drivers' championship the following year.
Although the pair did not always see eye-to-eye - notably during the tug-of-love as Williams and BAR fought over the driver's services - Richards is still credited with some words of wisdom that have stuck with Button beyond the Prodrive CEO's premature departure from F1 and through his ensuing drives with Honda, Brawn and McLaren.
"One thing I remember about Dave Richards in 2003 is that he said 'you have very good speed, but there are other drivers out there that do a much better job of surrounding themselves with the right people and really working at it with the team' [and that definitely did stick with me," Button told Britain's Guardian newspaper.
"That was the one thing that David used to say which is definitely something I use these days – trying to build a team around you. I think if you look back at F1, there are certain drivers that would always try that and I think it helped them in their career. Certain drivers really built a team around them, like Ayrton [Senna] and Alain [Prost], but also, I suppose, Michael [Schumacher] was the first one of our generation to really build a team around him. I feel that's very important, I think it is in any high-profile sport."
Clearly an integral part of the Brawn team during his championship year in 2009, Button has maintained the mantra following his move to McLaren. The swap was not thought by many to favour Button, as he would be teaming up with McLaren's long-term protégé Lewis Hamilton, but the older Briton has made it work by following Richards' words and embedding himself firmly within the fold at Woking.
"I did feel that they really welcomed me in but, still, I was the newcomer and had to spend a lot of time with the team for them to understand me and what I wanted from a race car, especially the engineers," he explained, "[It was a case of] just spending time with the mechanics, so they don't feel like you just come, drive the car, and leave again; that I'm actually part of the team - which I am.
"The most important thing is they need to know you're willing to go the extra bit and give your everything to the team and you're going to do your best. They need to hear it from you as well. Especially the guys at the factory, they're the guys who really need to feel a part of it."
The close relationship with McLaren is apparent in 2010 as a clearly laid-back Button claimed his third win of the season in Japan, just days after inking a new 'long-term' deal with the squad. He has appeared more at home within the team than Hamilton this year, and emerged as the closest thing Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel has had to a rival for the title, although the German claimed his second crown at Suzuka.
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