'When we took podium, Ross was speechless'
Brawn lost for words after his new team makes best debut in 55 years in Australia
Monday 30 March 2009
Not since the French Grand Prix in 1954 has a team new to Formula One finished one-two on their debut. That day at Rheims it was Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling for Mercedes-Benz. Yesterday in Melbourne's Albert Park, it was Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello for Brawn-Mercedes after an extraordinary Australian Grand Prix.
Yes, that Jenson Button, the man who was forced to trail round at the back these past two seasons, struggling with an uncompetitive Honda that was powered by an engine that delivered its meagre drive with all the finesse of a light switch.
The man who, in one great afternoon's work, scored more points than he had since 2006.
"Wow," he said, as he let that depressing statistic sink in. "That's pretty rubbish, really, isn't it? To be honest, the last two years have been really tough. Last year's car was a handful. Every corner, we didn't know what was really going to happen. So it was a beast, but that's what we had to deal with."
If there was a parable within yesterday's fairytale result, it was that every man in Formula One is only as good as the equipment he has at his disposal. Lewis Hamilton could not repeat his 2008 triumph as he struggled in a McLaren that is not yet au point. Button, the man he has so eclipsed since 2007, and whom many sceptics had long written off as yet another of those one-time stars who waned, was unbeatable in the right machine yesterday.
Such was the magnitude of the team's success, with Barrichello backing up Button with a fighting, albeit slightly fortunate, run to second, that Ross Brawn (below), the man who took ownership of the team in order to see it survive, had nothing to say in the immediate aftermath.
"You don't find Ross speechless very often but the last 15 minutes I would be surprised if he said a word," Button said. "When we saw him when we went up to the podium he had nothing to say. The big bear was just there speechless. It was good to see as it was a very emotional day for him as it is for us as well.
"I actually said on the radio to my engineer 'Can you please pinch me next time round.' It was at the start of the race after five laps when I had a five-second lead or something. Yes, this was a special moment."
The big question now, after all the pre-season testing promise has been proven beyond question in the heat of battle as Brawn humbled the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Renault, is how long it can continue, and whether rivals really can catch up.
"We knew that there were some very talented people in the team," Button said. "We hadn't produced the car that we expected to last season, so we put all our work into this car and you can see that we can produce a good car as we have in the past. Now the important thing is to just keep improving it. Our updates throughout the season I hope are going to be enough to keep us strong."
Is the world championship, then, a realistic prospect?
"I hope it is. I hope we are quick and have an advantage all season, but I don't think that's going to be the case. I have a feeling other teams are going to be on us very quickly. Maybe in Malaysia other cars that weren't competitive here, will be. Sebastian Vettel's pace surprised me. It's not a walkaway victory, for sure. But Rubens and I will be competitive together, with a good car, so no reason why we shouldn't be competitive."
Especially when you take into account a compliment that the veteran Barrichello, for six years Michael Schumacher's team-mate when Ferrari was helmed by Brawn, paid to Button.
"You know," he remarked to Brazilian journalists last weekend, "when he has his day, Jenson is as fast and talented as Michael, but he has not been as consistent."
Now that he has the car in his hands that he has waited 10 years to drive, Button is determined to put that right, too.
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