MAY 2, 2006
Jenson Button gets a great deal of criticism that he really does not deserve. The meal ticket for most of the English-speaking F1 media, who would not be sent to races if there was no major British interest, Button is constantly put in the spotlight by the journalists in question who need to justify their own existence and do so, when all else fails, by suggesting that Button is not good enough to win Grands Prix.
The fact is that Button is entirely capable of winning Grands Prix victories if he finds himself in a suitable car. One can blame him and his previous management for making the wrong career choices along the way but that is nothing to do with his driving. His car now is quick in qualifying (particularly with a light fuel load) but cannot match the pace of the fastest cars in the races.
Simply trotting out statistics proves very little. It is true that Jacques Villeneuve won his fourth race in Formula 1 but that was at a time when Williams-Renault was a dominant force in Grand Prix racing. It was a similar story for Damon Hill, who took just 13 races to win. But is there anyone in F1 who would argue that these two men had more talent than Ayrton Senna (16 races) and Michael Schumacher (18)? The fact that Fernando Alonso took 30 races and Raikkonen 36 should underline that things have got harder in the modern era and let us not forget that Mika Hakkinen won two World Championships after taking 96 races to win for the first time. Winning Grands Prix is very often down to being in the right place at the right time. Giancarlo Baghetti won his first three F1 races (two non-championship and then the French GP) but no-one remembers him as being anything other than a lucky man who was fortunate to win on his World Championship debut at Reims in 1961 when all his Ferrari team mates retired from the race.
Button is now closer than ever to that elusive victory but he can only do what the machine will allow him to do. And the fact is that until Honda gains that extra little bit of performance, Button is going to have to wait and put up with more stories about how he is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. It may never happen but then F1 is a world filled with "if only" stories.
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