Unlike Michael Schumacher, figures do matter to Jenson Button. The one he hated most was 114, the number of grands prix in which he competed before finally winning.
That albatross hung around his neck until victory at the Hungaroring on Sunday - the circuit on which Damon Hill won his first grand prix, back in 1993 - finally liberated him from that tormenting question: will he ever do it? His stylish success also ended the longest drought between British victories, 63 races having passed since David Coulthard won the Australian Grand Prix in 2003. Prior to that, the longest spell between British victories was 54, between James Hunt's 1977 Japanese Grand Prix in Fuji and John Watson's triumph at Silverstone in 1981.
So what happens next for Button, now that he has shown the growing number of disbelievers that he does have what it takes, after all? First, like Watson when he won the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix for Penske, there may be a change in facial hirsuteness. Back then the team owner, Roger Penske, disapproved strongly of facial hair, and the deal was that when Watson won, the trademark beard came off. This time, Button admits he may pick up his razor and remove his own raggle- taggle gypsy beard.
"I said I was considering having a shave if I won a race," he said, "but I didn't think I was going to win one. But I think I'm going to have to shave now." He gestured to second place finisher, the saturnine, smooth-cheeked Pedro de la Rosa: "But if I shave we'll all look like Pedro, all clean-shaven, all the same. We've got to have a bit of style, you know..."
Certainly, Button demonstrated plenty of that in his driving on Sunday, as the casino weather conditions tended to equalise car performance and minimise his Honda's dry-road shortcomings. He overtook a rival a lap over the first six laps, though he explained: "I made a terrible start. Alonso came past and just disappeared, but then I was able to pick off people and get closer to the front."
Button admitted he would have been unlikely to win had the race been dry, but thought that had he started from his fourth place qualifying (instead of dropping another 10 because of engine failure on Saturday), things might not have worked out quite so well.
As Formula One takes its summer break, Button has plenty of time to celebrate the long overdue success with the family and friends whose support has never wavered, before focusing on the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul at the end of this month. "I can celebrate this when I get back from four days of PR in Shanghai," he said, "and we can look forward to Turkey where, with some new things on the car, we can improve our performance again in the dry Many things helped us at Hockenheim last week in the German Grand Prix [where he finished fourth]; we had an aerodynamic upgrade and also updates with the engine and front suspension. We have always been quick in Hockenheim but to have a quick car here shows we have made a step forward."
It may be a while before the Honda are good enough to enable Button to deliver again, but the success in the team's 301st race was timely in a political sense, too, stemming a downward slide which had threatened the team's existence and already seen the technical director Geoff Willis relieved of his command. Button's success occurred when Takeo Fukui, the president of the Honda Motor Company, was on one of his rare visits. He, like many, was delighted to see Button finally fulfil his promise.
* Mark Webber has signed with Red Bull for next season, replacing Christian Klien. Webber failed to reach an agreement with his current team Williams. He will race alongside David Coulthard. BMW-Sauber have parted company with Jacques Villeneuve after replacing the 1997 world champion with Poland's Robert Kubica for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
* Formula One yesterday agreed a deal that will freeze costly engine development for the next four seasons.The FIA said engine development would be frozen, beginning with the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on 1 October. "These will be the only engines used from and including the 2007 season," the FIA said.Reuse content