Although over the last few years I have been critical of Jenson Button and so has Bernie so I haven’t been completely off beam I have started over the last few months to become interested in him again.
Perhaps it was the maiden win I thought, perhaps it was the new swagger with which he walks around the paddock, perhaps it was the new beard. Something was definately up with Jenson Button.
I decided to have a think about it so I took the available facts out for a swift pint and together we tried to figure out what it was that my gut was trying to tell me.
Sure I thought there’s Jenson’s much talked about smooth style the catches out even the most adamant Jenson denyer from time to time on a hot qualifying lap. But that wasn’t it. That’s not really changed over the years. It’s always been there and it’s always been something that I felt hasn’t been backed up by a commitment from Jenson to put the work in to maximise it. But then I was as suprised as anyone to discover at the begining of the season that it was Jenson rather than Michael who had done the most winter testing out of the drivers.
But that was at the begining of the season and this was now. Was I sure that I wasn’t just thinking about the maiden win? A single win despite the hype isn’t really the thing that opens the floodgates. Most often the serious big players will win early and then simply go on early. I’d often thought in the past that Jenson might only win one race in his career. And even then I felt I was being generous.
So what has changed? As the season has gone on it has become clear that this year is the end of an F1 era. And not really just because Michael has left the sport. The biggest changes will be because next year we have gigantic rules changes. Involving tires and engines and the teams will have to be really strong to adapt to these.
But at the big teams are also changing this year. Not only the drivers line ups with Alonso going to MaLaren and Kimi to Ferrari. We also have no Ross Brawn at Ferrari and no Adrian Newey at MaLaren (although Adrian left some time ago next years car will be the first he didn’t design).
And although Renault might be able to produce a fast car next year you have to ask if Fisi is the best man to pilot it.
So what Honda have is consistency during the current turmoil. And this might be a hidden strength for the team next year. They have actually proved this year that they can adapt to things quite quickly. It was only a few races ago that Jenson was complaining about their very poor starts and already a change has happened. In fact his awesome start was a large part of how he managed to move from 14th to 3rd in Brazil.
But that’s not just it. Ferrari know how to win, or at least they think they do. And so when Kimi arrives it will be hard to see his differences to Michael as being advantages. They may see the thousand little ways in which he is different as shortcomings. And in this way the team will no longer be built around the driver. It will be a team but a team like any other. McLaren will be the same for Alonso because McLaren is already designed around one person. But that person isn’t a driver – that person is Ron Dennis.
But the Honda engineers love Jenson. They loved the win he gave them. They love the way he goes testing. And they have loved him since he paid his own money to Frank Williams to not have to go to Williams. A move that seems to have been very smart now (just ask Mark Webber).
And with a long term contract in his pocket and with Rubens Barrichello as super second team mate I suddenly realised what it was that I’d been thinking about Jenson Button. He’s actually trying to be Michael Schumacher. I wonder if something that audacious could actually work?