"I did a good lap there, and I qualified 13th... I'm not going racing for that. That would have been pole in a good car." Jenson Button's voice remains as calm as it always is, but looking back on qualifying at the recent US Grand Prix at Indianapolis, he admits that was the last time he felt pure anger.
A year ago he was still Britain's Great Hope, only a month or so away from that final victorious breakthrough in the rain-spoiled Hungarian Grand Prix. Today, there is a poignancy about his situation. Destroyed in terms of results by Lewis Hamilton, drowned in the wave of Hamiltonmania that is about to flood Silverstone in next week's British GP, he is the victim of Honda's woeful inability to capitalise on a fabulous run in the second half of 2006 that saw him garner more points than either the eventual world champion, Fernando Alonso, or his challenger Michael Schumacher.
All things are relative, of course, and one need not be so concerned for Button's financial wellbeing. For somebody who still has just that singleton victory on the board, he has achieved security for his family, his family's family and... OK, you get the picture. He is very nicely fixed. But contrary to any perception that racing drivers are money-grabbing playboys, there is always that fundamental reality: they race because they want to win. And Button wants to win as much now as he did before the Hungaroring yielded up the big prize.
"You get that hot feeling when you are told P13 [13th place]," he reflected. "You think to yourself, 'What do I have to do?'
"But shouting about it isn't going to help anyone. As it is, everything is changing within the team. The only way that the people there can work harder is if you give 100 per cent and they do too.
"My motivation is the same as ever. This team can achieve great things, we have some fantastic people here, but maybe we have been a bit lost this year. And, yes, this is not the first time it's happened. It happened at the start of 2005 and 2006.
"But why wouldn't I be motivated? If you let yourself give up, you might as well stop. I am going as hard as I do when things are good, otherwise I'll never achieve anything. I look at it that 2007 will not be my last year in F1. We are building a car, and what is more important is what we will do in 2008. You have to look to the future.
He added: "It's all about performing the best we can, staying focused and dedicated. And if everyone in the team understands that you are working at 100 per cent, you hope that they will do the same."
A week is a long time in politics. Paradoxically, a season can be a short time in racing. In 12 months' time Honda might have turned the corner and given him the machine that his talent merits. Until then, though, the frustration will continue to simmer.Reuse content