YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE F1 BRITISH GRAND PRIX
This could be Jenson’s final British Grand Prix,
The fact that Jenson Button has never stood on the British Grand Prix podium is one of the crimes of British motorsport. It’s not quite up there with Sir Stirling Moss having never lifted the drivers’ world championship, but it’s a sad fact that Button’s 16 years have brought him 50 podium finishes and 15 wins, yet not a single one of them has been achieved in Northamptonshire.
The longer that run goes on the more agonising, especially as the 36-year-old knows he is now in the autumn of his grand prix racing career. This weekend could be his last British Grand Prix. Button’s contract with Mclaren-honda is up at the end of this year and, with young Belgian hot shoe Stoffel Vandoorne waiting in the wings, Mclaren has a serious decision to make as to whether to favour youth or experience as it pushes to get itself back to the front of the pecking order.
There has been talk about potential moves to both Williams, and even Ferrari, should Button be shuffled away from Woking. His experience makes him a valuable asset. That is especially true during times of rule change, with fatter tyres and more powerful engines set for introduction in 2017. Having a driver knowledgeable on set-up and development is vital.
Regardless, Button isn’t thinking far beyond this year. After all he’s faced losing his F1 seat essentially every year since 2014 when he began a string of contracts with single-year options, never definitively locking him into Mclaren for more than 12 months at a time.
So, heading toward what could be (again) his final grand prix outing at Silverstone, can 2009 world champion Button break his British GP hoodoo? The short and simple answer is, probably not.
“I’m going to Silverstone to do the best job I can and to put on a show for the fans, but I don’t realistically think we will be fighting for a podium place,” says Button. “In reality, this very well could be my last British Grand Prix. I’m not just halfway through my career, I’m coming to the end of it. But I will do the best with what I have available to get the best possible result.
“It really hurts that I’ve never been on the F1 podium at Silverstone, but I can’t do anything about the record at the moment, I have to ask myself: would I rather have a world championship in the bag than a win at the British GP? Yes, of course I would. So I’ve already achieved my main target in this sport already – to be world champion. But if I retired this year there would always be that one thing missing, which is the British GP. And not just the win either, just a podium would be nice!”
Regardless of how competitive the Mclaren-honda partnership finds itself on the fast sweeps of Silverstone, Button says it’s a special feeling to race in front of the British crowd.
In the modern age of temporary street tracks and history-less autodromes, the British GP is one of the old school events on the F1 calendar. And Button loves it.
“Since the start of my F1 career back in 2000 the British fans have been so supportive up until now, through the good years and the bad ones there’s been so much support,” says Button. “Silverstone is a very special GP. There’s so much emotion there for British drivers and I think every driver that goes to race there – regardless of their nationality – loves it for the atmosphere and the old school style of the circuit.
“It feels like when we were karting. Most of us drivers camp at the track, same as the fans do, and the whole weekend has a really nice grassroots feel to it.
“Also we go to a lot of shiny new race tracks around the world, and they look superb on TV, but when you’re driving around there’s only a few thousand people in the grandstands. These days there aren’t many races that get a full house in terms of fan attendances, but Silverstone is definitely one.
“A bad year for the British GP is about 100,000 fans, and that’s still pretty mega, but this year is a sell-out and that makes it extra-special.
“I love the circuit too. It’s a great layout. Perhaps in my mind it’s not as outright fun as it used to be when you had the old Bridge and Priory corners, which I loved, but the new layout has definitely added something to the racing. I’m not a huge fan of the slowspeed stuff [like The Loop], but having that installed has added to overtaking opportunities. Silverstone is very high speed, so it’s not easy to pass around, so the circuit needed some tweaks to boost overtaking. The track perhaps lost the thrill of a single lap qualifying run with the new layout, but in terms of racing action the new layout has probably added to the event.”
Button can at least arrive back on home turf with a morale boost after his strongest showing of the year last time out in Austria. Having qualified fifth in mixed conditions before being promoted to third – his best starting position since the 2014 British GP – by grid demotions for cars ahead of him, Button successfully battled with faster cars to run second before slipping back to finish a fine sixth.
Mclaren’s weakness has been the outright power of its Honda power unit this season. While the Japanese manufacturer has made significant