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Honda Defends Button

Nick Fry of the Honda team has responded to Ron Dennis’ dismissal of F1 drivers, other than Schumacher, Alonso and Raikkonen, as having less to offer than Lewis Hamilton. Dennis claimed that “If you take out the recognised top three, one of whom retired, we felt that in looking at the others…there was no-one who really shone.”

Clearly annoyed that Jenson Button should be included by implication in that blanket assessment, Nick Fry maintains that the Honda driver has joined the elite of F1.

Jenson

Jenson Button

“I believe that Jenson is up there with both Alonso and Raikkonen as the top three,” he said. “There’s others that will do well from time to time but in terms of consistently high performance he’s in the top three without a shadow of a doubt.

“Lewis Hamilton will do extremely well, I have absolutely no doubt about that, but it will probably take a little bit of time,” he said.

“He may do well in the first race but I think we’ve seen with other younger drivers that it takes a bit of experience to do well in every race. And in order to compete for the championship, you’ve got to do well in every race.

“Jenson is the consummate professional, he drives himself very, very hard and there’s not been one time in the last couple of years…where I’ve felt he’s really put a foot out of place.”

It is good to see that Honda still believe in Jenson; expectations in Britain were probably too high when he first entered F1 and the disappointments of the years that followed have eroded his support. This takes no account of Button’s misfortune in being in the right places at the wrong times, however. The list of teams he has driven for looks good (Williams, Benetton, BAR) but invariably he has been with them in their weaker years.

The telling thing about Jenson has been his performance against teammates, especially in racing rather than qualifying. He has consistently finished ahead of such competition as Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli (eat your heart out, Toyota) and Jacques Villeneuve. And, in 2006, he got the better of Rubens Barrichello.

Clearly, the potential is still there. All that remains to be seen is whether Jenson can perform at the top for a whole season and win the championship. If the car is good, and it really ought to be, I believe Button can do it.

What I particularly like is this quote from Nick Fry:

“Before the race (in Brazil) we were very clear that to have a chance of getting on the podium from 14th on the grid he had to overtake six cars on the first two laps,” he said.

“Jenson said ‘I can do that’. It wasn’t a matter of persuading him, it was ‘I definitely can do that’. And he did. And I think that is really the difference after Hungary compared to prior to that.”

That doesn’t sound like a man who thinks his best days are over. To be that confident after so many previous disappointments shows that Jenson can weather the storm and come out on top in the end.

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