SEPTEMBER 4, 2001
Much ado about Jenson
WITH Giancarlo Fisichella's allegedly underpowered, ill-handling Benetton holding off David Coulthard's McLaren for much of a Grand Prix, you might expect the Benetton to have been lapping Monaco or the Hungaroring but certainly not Spa, Formula 1's ultimate driver's circuit.
The Italian driver eventually netted Benetton's first podium finish and, while it was doubtless assisted by the demise of the Williams team and others, keeping ahead of both McLarens and Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari was an impressive performance.
In the second Benetton however Jenson Button slipped back from an early fifth place and ended his race in the wall at the Bus Stop chicane after getting it wrong and knocking his front wing off. The pressures on the young Englishman are growing.
Benetton's technical director has launched a somewhat scathing response to Button's deficit to Fisichella, even taking into account his limited experience, stating that: "It is difficult but he's paid big boy's money, he's in a big boy's world and he's got to perform. But he has the talent and we are working hard with him to make sure he delivers the performance that he needs to."
It is not all doom and gloom however for the 21-year-old who went overnight from beating Ralf Schumacher at Williams to fending off the Minardis at Benetton, and he will go into 2002 with the renamed Renault Sport team having the full backing of Renault's competition boss Patrick Faure.
"Next year I am confident in his success," he declared. "We have a contract with him next year, he will be here."