x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Winning Jenson Button makes 'right call' in rainy conditions

The McLaren-Mercedes driver marked his 200th grands prix with victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, while Sebastian Vettel's second-place finish helped him keep a commanding lead in the drivers' standings.

This was his 200th start and Button celebrated the milestone in style.
This was his 200th start and Button celebrated the milestone in style.

BUDAPEST // Sometimes a story writes itself. Jenson Button, in his 200th career grand prix, at the track that brought him his first race win, secured a wonderful victory yesterday during a highly dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix.

The win was five years since he captured his first success and, in inclement conditions once again, he emulated his achievement of 2006 with a calculated and composed performance. It was a record 10th success at the Hungaroring for McLaren-Mercedes.

With intermittent drizzle, tyre strategy was critical and Button, whose only other win this season arrived amid torrential rain in Montreal in June, flourished.

Remarkably, in the 26-year history of grand prix racing in Budapest, there has only been two wet races and the 31-year-old Button has triumphed at both. "All round, it's been an amazing weekend," he said. "This is the first place I won a grand prix, back in 2006 in these sort of conditions, and it is my 200th race and I've won here again.

"It's a great moment. I'm always lucky with these conditions. You are not always going to make the right call, but I feel I'm pretty good at [doing that] when it comes to tyre choices - although I'm not the only one."

The inclement weather forced 88 pit stops in total from the 24 drivers, but the 2009 world champion said he felt confident of the victory even before coming into the pit lane for the first of three stops.

When he emerged, he found himself battling with teammate Lewis Hamilton, which he described as fun and fair.

Much will be made of Button's prowess in the damp and he called it "one of my most enjoyable races", but he also said the conditions were not the primary factor in his win. "The reason why we won was because we were quick, not because it was wet," he said. "If it didn't rain it wouldn't have made any difference."

As he stepped out of his car in the paddock, he was congratulated by Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull Racing driver, who had started on pole but finished 3.5 seconds behind in second, and Fernando Alonso, the Ferrari driver, who finished third. Both embraced their rival with the world champion Vettel whispering into his ear: "Happy 200th".

Hamilton had spun while leading the race, allowing his compatriot to usurp him at the top of the field, but the 26 year old showed the maturity he has lacked of late, offering "big congratulations to Jenson" and adding "he pushed me hard and he deserved to win".

Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal of McLaren-Mercedes who had delivered a short speech on Saturday night at a social gathering recognising Button's career, was beaming post-race. "What a way for Jenson to celebrate his 200th grand prix," he said. "Just brilliant ... fantastic."

Whitmarsh said: "Those were very, very difficult conditions, and it was easy to get it wrong, but Jenson drove a great race. His measured yet combative drive was a testament to how naturally smooth and smart he is on the racetrack. He really deserved this win."

Button said he is already looking forward to the next race at Spa-Francorchamps on August 28 following a midseason break. But he is not wishing for more rain. "I'd like to win one in the dry, please," he asked of whoever scripts such tales as was witnessed yesterday.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae


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