This could be Jenson’s fi­nal Bri­tish Grand Prix,

Motor Sport News - - News -

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

Jenson But­ton took 2009 ti­tle in Brawn, but couldn’t net Bri­tish vic­tory

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