BARCELONA // Jenson Button got his Formula One career back on track today when his new Mercedes-powered Brawn GP team began four days of testing at the Spanish Grand Prix circuit. Apart from a brief shakedown of the new car at Silverstone last Friday, the Briton had not been behind the wheel since November the month before Honda announced that they were pulling out of the sport due to the credit crunch.
Honda said last week that they had sold their team to Ross Brawn, the Honda team principal and former Ferrari technical director. The Japanese manufacturer's British-based team had a miserable season last year, with Button scoring just three points from 18 races. However, they had been hoping for a big step up in performance this year and Brawn claimed after Honda announced their departure that the new car was considered a potential race winner.
Brawn said on Friday that the team was hoping to make a "respectable" start to the season at the first race in Australia on March 29. The early signs looked promising, with Button, who has taken a big pay cut to stay in F1, top of the time-sheets two hours into the test session with 20 laps under his belt. Button's fastest lap in last year's Spanish Grand Prix was 1min 22.353secs and he was already lapping in 1min 22.414secs in the Brawn on Monday.
The team's trucks were lined up in the Circuit de Catalunya paddock with their new name on the side while the car ran without branding in its new black, white and yellow colour scheme. Brawn was also attending the Barcelona test, as was Button's father John. McLaren's partners Mercedes have replaced Honda as the engine provider, with the new V8 unit believed to be providing around 60 horsepower more than the one used by Button last year.