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Button wakes up to a new life
Alan Baldwin | August 08, 2006 20:03 IST
Even as he whooped with joy in the immediate euphoria of his long-awaited first Formula One victory, Jenson Button looked forward to the next one.
"It feels so normal already," the champagne-soaked Briton declared after winning the Hungarian Grand Prix.
"It's nice to see that we've got a car that can win races," added the Honda driver, words he had waited 113 starts to be able to utter.
The plural 'races' is important. Button has never lost his self-belief, despite cruel headlines and suggestions that he was more paddock playboy than potential champion, and he will always be a winner now whatever he does.
The 26-year-old thanked those who also kept the faith even when times were tough.
"The team deserves this. They've been working so hard and it's taken so many years to get here," he said. "We're finally here.
"I've got to say a big thank you to everyone in the factory and everyone back in the UK who is supporting me because they've never lost faith which is the amazing thing."
Button shed a lot of unwanted baggage at the Hungaroring, the same track where Damon Hill won for the first time in 1993.
In Hill's case, that win was the first in a series that led to the 1996 title with Williams.
Button, the first British winner in three years, will now want to follow in the footsteps of his country's last champion.
Even if his win on Sunday, on a wet track and in extraordinary circumstances, may not be repeated in a hurry in a current championship dominated by Renault and Ferrari, it at least makes the dream more real.
"I really did feel that, from Jenson's point of view, he showed them," said team boss Nick Fry.
"There are so many people who have said over the years that he is a wonderfully smooth driver, which he is, but that he can't overtake," he added.
"I think that's been totally unfair.
"He went from 14th on the grid to fourth in seven laps, and when he overtook [Ferrari's Michael] Schumacher I smiled to myself and thought 'You showed them Jenson,'" said Fry. "He deserves this so much."
Honda took a gamble in Budapest, opting for a soft dry tyre rather than the harder one favoured by rivals and making the change from wets at exactly the right moment.
"The choice of tyres this weekend was a big risk for the guys to take but we were determined to," said Fry.
"We knew there was a big opportunity, we knew that if we did something a bit different maybe we would get a great result."
Ironically, the team could also have benefited from the wave of disappointment that greeted their performances in the early part of the season.
Pre-season testing had raised a real sense of expectation, with the team talking of winning races for the first time and challenging for the championship.
When that breakthrough failed to emerge, and it became apparent that Honda were struggling to match the pace, the media attention dwindled.
"Things went a bit pair-shaped after three or four races and some not so nice things were said," recalled Fry. "But once we got through that, people just left us alone.
"We had our beating for not being instantly successful and then really the pressure was off. Ironically, that helped us."
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