JANUARY 8, 2001
Jenson Button and the confidence of youth
JENSON BUTTON would have rammed Damon Hill off the road had he been competing in the 1994 Australian Grand Prix - if it meant his winning the World Championship. In the 20-year old Benetton driver's view the end justified the means, in much the same way as - in his opinion - the only thing wrong with Michael Schumacher's move on Jacques Villeneuve in the 1997 European GP at Jerez was that it didn't come off.
This startling, unyielding side of the young British rising star was put on public display in an interview with Damon Hill published in the latest issue of the British motor racing monthly F1 Racing.
Hill also discovered that Button feels that Schumacher's tactics of swerving across the circuit immediately after the start is also totally acceptable. "I don't think that is bad at all," says Jenson confidently, a response which at one and the same time leaves Hill somewhat exasperated while also perhaps laying down a marker for his rivals in 2001.
Sources inside Benetton confirm the Williams team's initial impressions of Button. "Very together, asking questions which you perhaps wouldn't expect from somebody with such relatively little experience and extremely focused," said one member of the Enstone-based team.
However, there is still a belief within Benetton that Giancarlo Fisichella will have the legs on the British driver for much of the forthcoming season. If that is really going to be the case, then one must expect Fisichella to raise his game considerably and perform at every race with the form he has hitherto demonstrated only three or four times a season.
On the other hand, perhaps Fisichella needs a driver of Button's calibre as team-mate in order to bring out the best in him. Whatever the inside view is on this partnership, most outsiders put their money on Button giving Fisichella the fright of his career to date.
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