Hopefully, winning the season-opener at the beautiful Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia on March 18 will make people sit up and take notice - not that they should’ve let Jenson Button disappear off their radar in the first place.
But maybe it is because he seems to be such a genuinely nice guy that it is easier to discount him - he doesn’t even get a mention (Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso do) in Supersport’s promo advert…who seem to have conveniently forgotten that he’s the driver who finished runner-up in 2011 and who was the only driver who could consistently take the fight to Vettel in the latter part of the season. The also may not be aware that he’s the first of Hamilton’s team mates to outscore the Boy Wonder over a season.
His performance in Melbourne was sublime, out-dragging the youngster’s similar McLaren off the line from his second spot on the grid to take a lead he wasn’t to relinquish. He managed his tyres to perfection (as usual) and controlled the restart after the safety car period to keep a decent cushion over Vettel’s Red Bull. When he needed to go quicker he did, and for good measure, he set the fastest lap of the race. Yet in a field which includes five other world champions, he’s the one who consistently gets overlooked.
Petulant Finn Kimi Raikkonen hardly covered himself with glory in his comeback, embarrassingly missing the cut in qualifying while his inexperienced teammate managed third. He looked better in the race on his way to seventh but I can’t imagine there was an atmosphere of bonhomie in the Lotus Renault pits on Sunday evening. Michael Schumacher looked more like his old self, before eventually retiring with a mechanical problem - no champagne at Mercedes. Alonso fought with his Ferrari for the entire distance and was rewarded with fifth place. Smiles and high-fives in short supply in that garage too.
But probably the most endearing thing about Button was how he clearly looks like a man completely comfortable in his own skin, largely unaffected by fame and fortune, and is genuinely well-liked by those who come in contact with him. No wonder he has such a lovely girlfriend and a dad who clearly treasures every moment he spends with his son at the racetracks around the world!
If there’s a race driver I’d really like to meet, and have round for a braai and a couple of frosties, it is Jenson Button. It’ll have to wait until the end of the season, I suspect, but at least then I’ll be able to offer the 2012 World Champion a ‘tjop and dop’.