Exclusive interview - Jenson Button 25 Aug 2006
No one can say Jenson Button isn't patient. 112 Grand Prix starts, many near misses, but no wins. Then came 113 - a number some might consider unlucky - and Buttons patience finally paid off. And what a win it was - few victories have brought such unanimous applause from throughout the Formula One paddock. Button had broken the spell at last. And now that he has tasted victory, he wants more...
Q: It was a long and winding road to the top step of the podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix. How did it feel?
Jenson Button: When you have been fighting for six and a half years of your life to win in F1, it is the most amazing feeling to stand on the podium and see the whole team so emotional in front of you. It's a major milestone for me and it's important to celebrate your first win, I've been working towards this for a long time. I was so happy for my family as well, just to reward all the support that they have given me and my career over the years. To look down from the top step of the podium and see my dad's face below was just fantastic, it's something that I will never forget.
Q: How much of it was relieving that burden - both for yourself - the media had started to write you off as a potential winner - and for the team?
JB: It was a dream first win. I know it has taken a long time but this was the most spectacular win I could have had. It wasn't the relief of a burden. I had a couple of tough years before Honda, but I always believed in myself and it was about finding the right team that I could work with. It's been a tough year for us without a doubt but we always knew that we could do it. But you know I have not won the world championship, I have won a Grand Prix. There's a bit to go before we are challenging for the championship but I'm just going to enjoy this moment first.
Q: And have you given yourself a special treat to celebrate during Formula One racing's summer break?
JB: Straight after the race, I headed off to China to do some PR work on behalf of our title sponsor British American Tobacco so I didn't really get the chance to celebrate properly then. Then I travelled to Japan on my way home to visit with Mr Fukui at Honda Head Office in Tokyo and Honda R&D in Tochigi to say thank you to all the staff there who have been working so hard. Once I came back to Europe, I had time for a celebration with my family and have now just spent a really relaxing ten days on the Mediterranean with my friends. Just having the time to see my family and friends and to share the occasion with them has been the treat for me really.
Q: Having started from 14th on the grid in Hungary you could not have expected it to turn out to be THE place for you. When did you realize that then and there would be your first win?
JB: Starting 14th and going through from there was spectacular. I was on the edge, every moment you thought you would be off the circuit because of the wet conditions, but you need to be on the limit to challenge for a win. From about 30 laps out, I was pretty happy. I knew I was in a good position but you never know what could happen with the weather, that's why I had to build up a big lead just in case. But, from 10 laps out, I knew I was going to win and I didn't want the race to end as I was feeling so good in the cockpit. To come from 14th is the perfect way to get your first win, I drove well and importantly the team didn't put a foot wrong, we really got it all together on that day.
Q: Some will still say that Honda are not ready to win on their own strengths - that they still have to hope for mistakes by others. However, in truth the last two races have shown a steady curve upwards. Are the teams developments now on the right track compared to the start of the season, when CEO Nick Fry admitted that winter testing and development had gone in slightly the wrong direction?
JB: We are certainly on the right track now but this win doesn't change our determination. We know that our car is not the most competitive out there and that is something that we have to work on. There are five races left this season and there are likely to be some challenging times again but our confidence is high so we just have to keep our heads down and keep working.
Q: So what is it that has catapulted Honda back to competitiveness?
JB: It's not really about a major overhaul, it's just been that the whole team has been working so hard to improve our performance. It's about taking little steps in all the areas that you need to improve upon. In Hungary, we really won it as a team with an excellent strategy, the right calls at the right time, and fantastic work by the guys during the pitstops.
Q: You finished fifth at last year's Turkish Grand Prix. What expectations do you have for this weekend?
JB: It's been really hectic for the last couple of weeks since our win in Hungary but now that I've had the chance to celebrate properly and some time off to relax, I'm ready to get back in the car again and get on with the Turkish Grand Prix. Our car is well-suited to the Istanbul Park circuit and we are capable of a good result there. I really enjoyed the circuit last year and had a good race coming from 13th on the grid to finish 5th, so I'm looking forward to the weekend.