Button urges more contact with fans

Briton bemoans demands of TV and technology but says McLaren are one big happy family this year

David Tremayne
Saturday 14 April 2012 21:21

Jenson Button likes winning grands prix, something he's become quite adept at since his world championship success in 2009.

"Back in 2007 I believed in my team [Honda] but it wasn't winning races nor a world championship contender. But now my mindset is very different. I'm with a team that's won multiple world championships and every year I've raced for McLaren I've won races. That means a lot."

But there is something that he would dearly like to see change.

"If I had my way, I'd make sure that after a race we could celebrate a victory better than we do now. The way it is with having to look after the engine because it's got to do a certain number of races, and the gearbox, you can't go and do doughnuts for the crowd. You can't pick up a national flag. You can't have the moments that Nigel Mansell had at Silverstone. And in your very moment of euphoria you are dragged away from the team, your family and friends."

In order to satisfy a tight schedule for television interviews, followed by the podium finishers' media conference, there is no time for a driver to savour success.

"It's obviously a very special feeling when you win a race," Button says. "Yes, you talk to your team on the radio, you see your Dad and your girlfriend and your Mum, but you don't really get to see them or touch them for an hour and a half after the race. That's something this sport is lacking. Seeing emotion in a driver's face in front of a television camera is great, but I think you need to see the proper emotion when he's with his family and friends and the team at the very moment of triumph. As it is, you stop in parc fermé, give a few team members a hug, but then you are often physically pulled away to go and get weighed. I understand the reasons for that and the need for TV coverage for the fans at home, but that's something as drivers that we miss from what they had in the past.

"That's a tricky one and of course you need balance, but it's something we need to do better. It would make much better TV to see that real emotion when it pours out spontaneously."

Emotion isn't something you associate with Button, the title contender most adept at maintaining an even strain and whose support group – comprising girlfriend Jessica Michibata, father John and manager Richard Goddard and one or two close friends – keeps him grounded and chilled.

"I'm doing the best job in the world so it's easy to be happy," he says. Of course, it helped that he won the season-opener in Melbourne and that from fifth on the grid he will be a contender again today. "You still have bad days, because you always want to win, but you have just got to think that you are very lucky in terms of being where you are. For me the most important thing in life is to achieve and in doing that you should be enjoying yourself. You're not here for a long time.

"Everyone around me helps me in this situation. What's the point of going through these experiences on your own?"

That laidback approach is part of the reason why Button has been able to take the fight to Lewis Hamilton, the man he regards as the "toughest, fastest and best" team-mate he has ever had.

"Lewis is always able to find the perfect balance in qualifying, or else to extract a good lap from the car," he says, his respect all too evident. "That's definitely his strength, and that's very impressive."

So how will things be between them if they end up fighting for the title this year?

"I don't know! We've got to make sure first of all that we are both fighting for it. That would be a positive, definitely not a negative. There's a good understanding between us, though things can change if you come to the end of the world championship and you're fighting each other. I don't think you are ever ready for that situation, but it's all about being calm and collected."

Button will be calm and collected in Bahrain next week, even though photographs of Bernie Ecclestone were burned yesterday in the wake of the FIA's decision that the controversial race will go ahead, and clashes followed the shooting by police of a 15-year-old boy at the funeral of the activist Ahmed Ismail, who was himself shot dead during a protest last month.

"It's very important that the FIA, as the governing body of the sport, should make that decision for us," Button says. "They have all the facts. It's complete guesswork for me whether it's the right thing to do. But I really hope so."

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