x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Jenson Button has a lot left in his tank

At the wrong side of 30, the former Formula One world champion keeps getting asked when he is retiring, but the McLaren driver has no such plans.

Jenson Button, the McLaren driver, says he is addicted to winning and will continue to challenge for more Formula One championships.
Jenson Button, the McLaren driver, says he is addicted to winning and will continue to challenge for more Formula One championships.

With nearly 200 race starts under his belt, Jenson Button is long overdue a first appearance on his home British Grand Prix podium.

It may come this weekend, even if Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racings's runaway leader, and Mark Webber, his teammate, will be hard to beat at Silverstone, but Button, the 2009 world champion, feels he still has time on his side after all these years.

The Mercedes-McLaren driver's stirring victory in Montreal last month, coming from last place to pass Vettel on the final lap, has made sure of that even if McLaren were off the pace and off the podium in the latest race in Valencia.

"It seems that every interview I do now, people talk about how many more years are you racing, when are you retiring?" Button told said at a recent media event.

"I'm only 31 years old, so there is a lot of life left in me yet, and hopefully quite a few more British Grands Prix."

Button started out with Williams in 2000 and had to wait until 2006, with Honda in Hungary, for his first race win to arrive.

He then won six races with Brawn GP in his championship year and has taken three more victories with McLaren. Fittingly enough, this month's return to Hungary will be his 200th start.

"I still want to achieve more. I want to win more races, I want to challenge for more world championships," said the Briton, speaking on board the vessel that carried Sir Winston Churchill's coffin along the River Thames during the 1965 state funeral of the former prime minister.

In terms of symbolism, an ageing boat heading through sometimes choppy waters at a stately pace might have seemed an unfortunate choice for a pre-Silverstone team outing but Button remained upbeat despite McLaren's performance problems.

"This year, I've had some great races and I've really enjoyed it, and that's the most important thing," he said. "Getting the win in Canada was a very special win for me, and that will definitely keep me going for quite a bit longer in the sport in terms of excitement and really wanting to get back to that," he said.

"It becomes very addictive, winning, and you really miss it when you haven't got it."

Vettel has won six of the eight races so far this year and is 77 points clear of Button, who is in second place in the championship with 11 more grands prix to come. It will take a comeback of unprecedented proportions for anyone to overhaul the 24-year-old German, with McLaren also fighting Ferrari just to get on the podium.

In the build up to the race Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren-Mercedes team principal, said that Button's teammate Lewis Hamilton will not be leaving next season following recent speculation linking him with Red Bull.

"Lewis loves this team and he knows the car is capable of winning races," Whitmarsh told the Independent. "He's sat with me in the last 10 days and explained his passion, enthusiasm and desire to remain part of this team.

"I've known him since he was 11. I don't think he would look me in the eye and say that if he didn't mean it."

Hamilton wrote off his championship chances after the last race in Valencia, before backtracking and saying he would never give up. Button was also down after that race, before consigning it to history and recharging his batteries.

"Everyone wants to win their home grand prix, and at least be on the podium," Button said.

"Winning would be out of this world but even being on the podium would be special.

"I've been close a couple of times, and last year was pretty close. It was disappointing not to get there, especially to come from 14th [to fourth].

"So yeah, it would be nice to get a podium. I think it's going to be tricky. We've got to really focus on bringing some good improvements to the race to have a chance. But that's exactly what we're doing."

Last year was Button's second fourth place at Silverstone, after a fifth in 2000 and 2005 and a sixth in 2009. The start/finish has been relocated this year, with the opening of a new pit and paddock complex making it a new experience for all.

"I'm really excited about the weekend. I hope it's dry, I really do. The British fans deserve that," Button said.

"It's going to be exciting having a new Turn One as well.

"I've got quite a few of my family members coming and friends from all over to watch the race, so that's even more reason to have a good result."