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DATE News (chronologically)
11/18/09
f1
Experts weigh-in on Button's McLaren challenge
We know McLaren's position of equal treatment for their drivers. However, if one driver shows more speed than the other, the team is not going to ever have the ability to ultimately control the emotions and motivation of the people that tend to their drivers. It is a natural inclination to want to work hard for the guy who will win for you. So just because they do not have a number one driver policy, that does not mean that at every corner, things are entirely equal.

However, when McLaren had Senna and Prost, it went right down to the last race, and Senna intentionally crashed them both out of the race because he had the points lead going in, and knew he would secure the championship that way, because he knew Prost had the same car and could challenge him.

Still, Jenson Button faces the toughest challenge of his Formula One career when he joins Lewis Hamilton at McLaren next season and he knows it.

"Life is all about challenges and, most important of all, it's about challenging yourself," the 29-year-old world champion said after the Woking team announced he had signed a multi-year deal.

"Although I won the World Championship with Brawn GP last year, and I'll never forget that, I was always adamant that I wanted to continue to set myself fresh challenges."

The Briton will certainly get that at McLaren, where compatriot Hamilton is part of the family after being backed by the team ever since he was a bright-eyed kid winning titles in go-karts more than a decade ago.

Hamilton was a sensational rookie in 2007, seeing off double world champion team-mate Fernando Alonso and ending the season as overall runner-up before becoming the youngest ever champion a year later.

His performances this season, wrestling with an uncompetitive car for the first half and then winning races in the second, have earned him even more admiration and respect.

Button is good, no question. He is one of the smoothest, most easy-going and least flappable drivers out there. But Hamilton is young, hungry, fearless and well on the road to becoming one of the greats.

The 24-year-old has said he wants to take the title back from Button and he intends to do just that.

"I think it's a mistake by Jenson," Britain's triple world champion Jackie Stewart told BBC radio. "If I had been Jenson, I would have wanted to do a deal with Brawn because I know the culture of the Brawn team, I have a high respect for Ross Brawn, I would know the mechanics.

"There's a totally different culture in McLaren, something he might never have experienced before," added the Scot. "It will be difficult for him to take on Lewis Hamilton. It's like walking into the lions' den... Fernando Alonso couldn't cut it against Lewis Hamilton and I think Lewis will want to retain his position of prominence."

Whereas Michael Schumacher reigned supreme at Ferrari, McLaren have always given their drivers equal status even if - as with Hamilton and Alonso - that can sometimes backfire.

"In the past they (McLaren) have had a history of really being able to only fully support one driver," said former McLaren racer Martin Brundle, who was David Coulthard's manager when the Scot partnered Finland's Mika Hakkinen.

"It's Lewis Hamilton's patch, it's his territory and he's made it his own. He knows everybody and knows where all the green buttons are to press."

While Button was comfortable at Brawn, loved by the mechanics and popular in the factory, that team will compete as Mercedes next year after a takeover announced on Monday.

That could well change the dynamics, with Germany's Nico Rosberg set to become the Stuttgart carmaker's favorite son and the suspicion that Button was surplus to requirements.

"It's clear that they (Mercedes) want a German team, I didn't think there was going to be a place for Jenson there," said former team owner Eddie Jordan.

"It is a pity... if you like, the dice changed against Jenson and he was left with only McLaren... I think Jenson will need to be playing all his cards really well."

The prospect of two champions sharing a garage, for the first time since Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were at each other's throats at McLaren in 1989, is potentially highly combustible but Button expected to get on fine with Hamilton.

"Lewis has achieved an incredible level of success in a very short period of time, and he's a wonderfully gifted driver who has earned the respect of every Formula One driver," he said. "I'm sure there's plenty that we can learn from each other, and I'm really looking forward to using our combined knowledge to push the team forward." (written in part with excerpts from Yahoo EuroSport)

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