Button insists he can handle rivalry - Motor Racing - Sport - The Independent

Button insists he can handle rivalry

Can he compete with Hamilton at McLaren? As he starts work, the champion answers his critics

Jenson Button was in cheerful mood yesterday, as befits a man starting a challenging new job. As he experienced his first proper day at work at McLaren, and took his first drive for the team that made Lewis Hamilton a champion, he insisted his surprise move had motivated him more than ever to repeat his world championship success of last year, gained with the short-lived Brawn team.

Button had his first in-depth introduction to McLaren's remarkable Sir Norman Foster-designed headquarters in Woking, Surrey, and drove last year's MP4-24 car in their simulator to get a first feel for his new berth as he starts a campaign in which he hopes to retain his crown, despite the fearsome threat posed by Hamilton.

"Maybe if I'd stayed where I was it might have been harder to go for another title because I wouldn't have been so motivated," he said. "But the move to McLaren excites me and I'm working really hard to achieve something similar this year. I'm more motivated than ever. And I'm a lot more relaxed and confident in my ability, and also in the way that I work with a team. I get to grips with that sort of thing very quickly and we'll have a lot of testing miles over the winter. That makes me feel confident too that we will be in good shape by the first race."

Button's first good look at the McLaren Technical Centre was a "real eye-opening moment," and he said: "It's a fantastic building, but it's the people within it who'll do a good car. I've been in the simulator, and already I can feel this is a great environment. The people here are itching to see what we can achieve. I think 2009 was a good year for the team despite a difficult start, and they are itching to get back to the front."

While hailing the return of the seven-times champion Michael Schumacher – who will drive for Button's old team, now rebranded as Mercedes GP – Button refused to be drawn into argument with critics, including Schumacher's former team-mate Eddie Irvine, who have suggested that Hamilton will destroy his reputation.

"First of all, I think it [Schumacher's return] is amazing for the sport," he said. "There will be four world champions racing, and that's great. It's an unusual decision by Michael to come back but he's obviously got his reasons after three years out. You've got to say fair play to Ross [Brawn] for getting him on board, because there aren't many team principals who could have persuaded him to come back. Obviously Ross is very happy, and why wouldn't he be? He's got a guy who is very competitive and it's very positive for the team. And Michael will be right there by the first race, I'm certain of that.

"As for whether I'll hand out humble pie in November, I don't think it's worth thinking or looking that far, or worrying what people say. I'm excited to be working with Lewis, and that's exactly what we have to do if we are going to be competitive. We'll have to work very close together if we hope to be fighting for the world championship. There's no use making any comment yet because we don't know if we'll be in the situation to fight for the title. I know it's going to be one hell of a challenge coming into a team in which Lewis has been for so long, but I'm confident of my own ability."

Irvine, who knows what it feels like to be dominated after being taken apart by Schumacher at Ferrari between 1996 and 1999, yesterday suggested that Button has unwisely entered the lion's den. "It was madness of him to move," Irvine told ESPN. "He thinks he's going to be able to eat his steak and that's not going to be the case. He's going to get murdered. It's the worst decision he could have made.

"The only reason I can think of is that he didn't want to stay at Brawn with [Nico] Rosberg, who's not as highly rated as Lewis but might be just as quick. Jenson may have thought that it's better to get beaten by Lewis than get beaten by Nico."

Button brushed that aside, and insists such comments don't annoy him. "Actually, that stuff makes my life a lot easier than if people say that they expect me to destroy my team-mate. I'm just going to focus on getting the best out of myself and out of the team. It's not a negative thing.

"I'm not one for answering back. Like I said, I'm confident in my own ability. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I might not agree with them, but that's it. This has always been an exciting challenge for me, and it was never going to be easy. But I don't feel that I have to prove anything to anyone. People's comments won't change anything. The only thing that changes anything is what happens on the track."

With only 15 days of official testing before the first race, in Bahrain on 14 March, he has his work cut out. "On the one hand I'm very excited about getting into the new car in February and testing hard, on the other I know there is a lot of work to be done."

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week