Jenson Button has competed in more than 250 Grands Prix. He has won 15 of them. He was the Formula 1 world champion in 2009. These statistics place him among the British greats of the sport.
It may be inconvenient for him that Lewis Hamilton is also around and has won 26 of his 137 starts (but still only one world championship). Button is 34, five years older than Lewis, and he is well aware that people will soon start talking about it being time for him to retire. He knows he needs success, but he also wants people to know just how much he loves being a grand prix driver.
“I still love Formula 1 very much – very much,” admits the McLaren driver. “I love being out there, trying to get the best out of the car and out of yourself. You are still trying to find the limits that you don’t think others can find. I feel like I have just jumped into my first F1 car.
“The hunger is definitely still there. It hurts when you are not quick, but only one person can win each grand prix, so you have to work hard to get back to doing that. I know that if I don’t do a good enough job, I won’t be racing next year.
“Having been with this team for so many years, and having been through some tough times, I’d love to be here in the future. Looking at the plans they have for the future, I think it is going to be a great place to be.”
At the moment there is a lot of negative talk about Formula 1, but Button doesn’t see it that way.
“I think that the next couple of years are going to be great,” he explains. “We are going to start finding downforce and I really think we will see more teams fighting at the front. I think McLaren will be there. We’re going through a rough patch; every championship-winning team goes through those, but this team will come out the other side.
"Eric Boullier [the new racing director of McLaren] definitely brings good ideas to the team and I think it will work. It’s just going to take a bit of time. It is always more difficult than you think it will be because you are racing against the best teams in the world. F1 is such a competitive sport right now. Sometimes you just don’t get the results, but you are definitely making progress.”
Button now has to cope with rising star Kevin Magnussen as his team-mate, but it is not the first time he has had a tough rival sharing the garage with him. Hamilton was serious competition. Button is watching Hamilton this year with interest. He knows about racing with a dominant car, having won the title with the Brawn-Mercedes in 2009, but he sees no comparison with this year’s Mercedes AMG domination.
“I remember how much quicker I was than other teams in the races,” he says. “It was two to three-tenths of a second at best. Mercedes are a second quicker than anyone, so it is completely different. We were in a team that was doing a great job but had no future at that time. We started with a great car, an awesome car to drive, but we did not have the development. People were always going to catch us because the team was not willing to develop the car.
"They thought we had done enough, whereas with Mercedes they have the money and the resources and they will keep pushing to the end.
“When you are winning races and suddenly you don’t win, it is difficult. You’re thinking, ‘I’m on a winning streak here, I am strong’, but it goes wrong. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Lewis and Nico [Rosberg] are both intelligent guys and they are both quick, but sometimes it’s just whose head is in the right place at the right time.