Less than four months ago Jenson Button seemed to be heading for a Christmas in the dole queue while his Honda formula one car was destined for the scrapyard, both of them casualties of the credit crunch. Yesterday, however, after helping to save his team by reportedly accepting a pay cut from around £9m to about £3m a year, the 27-year-old British driver sealed one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of his sport by leading last year’s no-hopers to a crushing victory in the Australian grand prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne.
The proud and mighty battalions of Ferrari and McLaren crumbled as Button was followed home by his Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello, whose career had been similarly imperilled. The sleek white cars, renamed Brawn after their technical chief, and with engines acquired from Mercedes-Benz hastily bolted to their chassis, ran for the first time earlier this month once a last-ditch management buyout had secured the team’s immediate future.
On his arrival in formula one nine years ago, Button was touted as Britain’s most likely successor to Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill. But then in roared Lewis Hamilton, who became the youngest world champion in history, ascended to the status of national hero and cast his rival into the sort of shadows from which few drivers emerge. Button’s career stalled, and the fortunes of his team along with it. When Honda announced their decision to leave the sport, early in December, a once promising story seemed to have ended in anti-climax.
Yesterday, however, a dramatic victory carried a team that had been on the verge of extinction to the top of the championship table at the start of the new season. Not even the drivers’ pay cuts could prevent the necessity of laying off 270 employees this month, more than a third of the team’s workforce. But the payback for the hectic race to assemble their new car in time for the opening round was to hear some of their rivals – such as the Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, who fought Hamilton for the title last year – describe them as “untouchable”.
The next reward is likely to be an association with Sir Richard Branson, who flew into Melbourne on Saturday for the announcement of a sponsorship deal which may shortly result in the cars assuming the name of his Virgin companies. Encouraged to enter formula one by Bernie Ecclestone, the sport’s controversial ringmaster, Branson also announced plans to develop a form of clean petrol, the use of which use could be initiated by the new team.
“I’m one of the greatest polluters in the world and we’re trying to redress the balance,” the boss of the Virgin airline said. “We’ve developed a fuel that would be quite capable of running all the formula one cars without any carbon output. We’ve invested a lot of money in a company in America and they’ve come up with this fuel that will not eat into the food supply – it’s not ethanol – and could be very exciting for the future. It may be possible to use it on our planes as well, but first things first – let’s use motor sport to pioneer it.”
Known for his record-breaking exploits in boats and balloons, Branson, 58, has no intention of asking Button for a turn at the wheel. “My driving abilities are abysmal,” he said. “I’ve turned over cars three times on normal roads, so I’m going to leave it to guys like Jenson to do the driving for me.”
from guardian. i watched this race. right from the qualifying stages to the raceday. it was awesome. full of drama. this albert park is really tough start-of-the-season race. for this season, like the past seasons and ever since i watched F1, my favourite team always Scuderia Ferrari. why Ferrari? the red car definitely.. it looks brave strong and handsome.. and then there’s schumacher. my fav driver. i followed him since he joined benetton. so when he joined ferrari, its all schumi and ferrari for me. now i’ve got only ferrari. the race yesterday was pretty bad for ferrari. both massa and kimi went out. massa had a good start early on but somehow went out at mid-race. button was up-front since race-start. the drama was all behind him. barrichello had a bad start. his car bogged down before it took off. giving a chance for vettel and kubica storm past him.. they raced hard.. but with just few laps to go kubica tried to get past vettel and it was done quite stupidly. he crashed to the side of vettel’s car. vettel was pushed off-track. kubica lost his front wings. yet he sped up to get pass vettel. with aerodynamics already off his car crashes to the side at one turn. kubica out. vettel crashed as well and lost one tire but still tried to race. but he had to retire as well after trying so hard to get to the pit.. at the end it was one-two finish for brawn gp. button taking 1st place and barrichello in 2nd spot. third was jarno trulli. brawn gp – new team guided by ross brawn with only a single sponsor name on the car, richard branson’s virgin air. the race was a great start to the season.