Button breaks his duck at last
Monday 07 August 2006
It was the eyes that really gave away just what Jenson Button felt when, after 114 attempts, he finally won his first grand prix in Hungary yesterday.
After the favourites had faltered there were hugs in parc fermé for team principal Nick Fry, personal assistant Jules Kulpinski, runners-up Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld, and team-mate Rubens Barrichello. But, as he finally stood on the top step of the podium, no tears. They were there, instead, in the eyes of father John, "Papa Grappa", his most ardent supporter, as he gazed up at his son.
So many had impatiently written off the 26-year-old Englishman, even though anyone with a modicum of knowledge of this sport knows that you do not win unless you have the right equipment.
It took Nigel Mansell 72 races; Mika Hakkinen 96; Giancarlo Fisichella 110; Jarno Trulli 117 and Barrichello 124.
But if Button shed no tears, the wide-open stare visible behind his visor was as telling as Kelly Holmes' expression when she struck Olympic gold. It said: "I've done it, but I can hardly believe it." It was his moment of sporting epiphany. Moments later, however, the reality had sunk in.
"The problem is it feels so normal already," Button said with a smile wider than the Danube. "What a day! The amazing weather conditions made it very difficult for everyone, so coming through from 14th to win, there couldn't be a better way. Our strategy was fantastic.
"If my voice sounds funny it's because I've been screaming so much. It was fun closing down Fernando Alonso. We made a great choice of tyres and also our last stop was great.
"We were a real thinking team today. We thought hard about our strategy and we won not just because we had speed but also because we had the strategy. The last lap felt amazing, in fact, over the last 10 laps, the best of my career, I didn't want the race to end. Normally when you are in the lead - I suppose - it seems to go on for ever but I was loving it, I didn't want it to end, knowing I was on my way home to winning my first grand prix."
On his day of days, Button's only problems were the public relations trip to Shanghai that obliged him to celebrate on an aeroplane, and whether to shave his beard just as John Watson did after breaking his duck in Austria 30 years earlier. He could live with that.
Nick Fry, the team's chief executive, said: "There are hardly words to describe this moment. It is an historic day for Honda and the most incredible occasion for the whole team, its associates and fans all over the world. Everyone has worked so hard for so long to savour the taste of victory."
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