Button is the genuine article

Jenson Button displayed the kind of maturity, rhythm and pace on his Formula One debut that truly marks him out as a genuine talent.

Jenson Button displayed the kind of maturity, rhythm and pace on his Formula One debut that truly marks him out as a genuine talent.

Remarkably composed for one so young, the 20-year-old Button began to look out of his depth for the first time on Saturday night as the disappointment of qualifying in 21st place for the Australian Grand Prix ate into him, but he bounced back with the second-fastest time in yesterday morning's warm-up. By the end of the first lap he had moved his Williams up to 15th place, narrowly avoiding fellow-rookie Nick Heidfeld's Prost as the German was forced to slow in the first corner. Button, despite his lack of experience, soon settled on to the tail of the 10-car train chasing sixth place.

"What Jens lacks most is pure track time," his father, John, had said. "He went to Kyalami to test, in the expectation of fine weather, and instead it rained most of the time." Prior to the weekend, Button's dry-track running amounted to 1,000 kilometres. By contrast, when Jacques Villeneuve made his debut here for Williams four years ago, he had seven times that behind him.

Yet lap for lap Button matched - and sometimes beat - the times of his team-mate Ralf Schumacher, three places ahead of him on the road. With 11 laps to go he was running sixth, applying pressure to Giancarlo Fisichella's Benetton and Villeneuve's BAR. It was engine failure that put paid to the fairy-story.

"It was amazing," said the Frome-born Button after becoming Britain's youngest - and the world's fifth youngest - grand prix driver of all time. "The whole experience was incredible. I lived up to my dream, though I would have liked it to last another 11 laps. I felt really relaxed beforehand. It was scary how calm I was."

With his critics now silenced, Button's next taste of life in the fast lane is Brazil in a fortnight.

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