Folklore has it that after his first day of testing in the Brawn F1 challenger in 2009, Jenson Button climbed from the car, and went straight to a bookmaking website, placing a sizeable bet on himself at odds consistent with a team and driver that hadn’t won anything, and which months earlier had been as good as closed. As history now shows, he both made a packet and became world champion.
At today’s launch of McLaren’s new challenger Button had the swagger of a man carrying a lot of optimism. As he said himself, "I'm always excited at the start of the new season, but for some reason I'm especially excited about this coming year. I know about all the hard work done, and I know what's to come – it’s exciting.”
From the sidelines, it's impossible not to conclude that much of Button's confidence comes from being the undisputed number one in the team. Sure, nobody in the management will admit that, but few rate Sergio Pérez in the same league as Lewis Hamilton as a team-mate. He's good, no doubt, but you just know Button won't have to fight so hard to get the car developed as he likes it this year, or to be the dominant voice in the room as qualifying or race strategy is decided upon.
McLaren, too, has pledged to fight for this year’s championship to the end, as opposed to diverting resources towards 2014, when wholesale regulation changes come into force. "It's a risk," conceded team boss Martin Whitmarsh, "but it's one we think we can manage. Some teams are already talking about 2014, but we’re fully committed to pushing for the title this season, while working on 2014 at the same time.
"Diverting resources from one to the other is always a dilemma, but we opted to be aggressive. With this year's relative rule stability we could have opted to evolve last year's car, but we've decided to be more aggressive and come up with a concept we believe is not only better now, but gives us scope for further development well beyond the winter."
It's all talk for now, of course, and I'm sure the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari are going to say similar things. But when those winter tests get underway on 5 February in Jerez, Spain, I bet there are nervous bookmakers keeping an eye out for big money being placed on Button… by Button.