Jenson Button has said that having Lewis Hamilton as a team-mate is not “a stress-free situation”. Button, though, has enjoyed being kept on his toes by his fellow Briton over the past 18 months since joining McLaren.
Hamilton has had the upper hand, out-qualifying Button by a ratio of 19-9 in their 28 grands prix on the same team. In a race situation, the count is 18-10 in Hamilton’s favour, with the 26-year-old enjoying four victories compared with Button’s three, and jumping on the podium 12 times in contrast with the latter’s 10.
This season, however, they are tied on 109 points, finding themselves in the same boat as they struggle to close the 95-point advantage of the championship leader, Sebastian Vettel.
Although the year has hardly gone swimmingly for either man, Button can have no complaints with life alongside his fellow Briton. “I’d say in qualifying Lewis has been stronger since I’ve been in the team, not always, but through the season he has been stronger,” Button said.
“As for the racing, I think we’ve had some good races, even if I’ve started behind him. I’ve been fighting with Lewis for the last year and a half. We both have a good feeling within the team, we give a lot of feedback, we take the car in the right direction, so it’s good having a team-mate like Lewis because it does push you.
“If you have a slightly bad day at the office, he’ll destroy you, and if you have a slightly good day and he has a slightly bad day then you can beat him. So it’s a good position to be in, and it keeps you on your toes, definitely. It’s not a stress-free situation, though, because we are both fighting and we are both competitive, but that’s not a bad thing.”
Button has long made it clear he would never accept being a bit-part player in a team, which is another reason why he enjoys equal billing within McLaren. “Having a good team-mate is key in Formula One,” Button said. “Some drivers like to have a team-mate who is not as quick, and I’m not saying they’re a No2 driver, but someone who will play second fiddle and won’t take points off them.
“As you’ve seen this year we’ve been taking points off each other, which is not the best thing for the drivers’ championship, but it is the way it should be. You should have two good drivers in the team, and they should fight it out, like it has always been in Formula One in the past.”
For this season the duo face a fight merely to hang on to Vettel’s coat-tails, in particular at this weekend’s German Grand Prix, where the 24-year-old will be looking to win on home soil for the first time. After the disaster of losing his wheel in his own home race 10 days ago at Silverstone, Button is determined to triumph on another of the sport’s legendary circuits – the Nürburgring.
“This is a truly historic and equally tricky circuit and not to be underestimated,” Button said. “You’ve got the rest of the 14-mile original layout just next door and there have been some memorable moments in the sport, both good and bad, often in the same weekend.
“Think of 1976, where James Hunt won in a McLaren, but Niki Lauda had an appalling accident. Or 1968, where Sir Jackie Stewart was almost blinded by mist and spray, but won by four minutes just driving from memory.
“So this is a race I’d really like to win. In my championship year I finished fifth and my best position before then was third, back in 2004. To be able to say you’ve won at the Nürburgring is a major achievement because it’s such a historic and challenging location.”