BARCELONA // Four months ago, Jenson Button was a blubbering wreck. He returned from a week-long holiday to a phone call telling him that Honda had pulled the plug on their Formula 1 operation, and it looked likely the 29-year-old Briton would have to look for work elsewhere.
Button looks back on it as an "emotional and stressful time" that finally resolved itself last week when the former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn officially took over the team. "I remember getting the call at the airport," he said. "The next day I went straight to the team factory to talk everything through. I was awash with emotion and gave a few emotional speeches to different departments. But the staff barely batted an eyelid. Their reaction was a positive one - they decided there was a car that still needed to be built and all credit to them."
Button must take at least some of the credit for the birth of BrawnGP. Brawn himself admitted it would not have been possible without Button's decision to take a massive pay cut - thought to be 50 per cent of the US$15 million (Dh55m)-a-year deal he earned as Honda's leading works driver. But Button, a veteran of 153 races, brushes off the drop in his salary insisting it was "the only choice" despite being linked with race drives elsewhere for 2009.
"My plan B was not racing - it's as simple as that," he said. "I really wanted to be with this team in 2009 which is why I didn't even entertain any other possibilities. This is the best choice for me, the only choice for me. "People talk about me making a sacrifice but it was necessary for everyone to make certain sacrifices, not just me. I'm just pleased that we've done it and the team is up and running. I'm here to race and I love racing.
"Being at the factory last week to hear Ross announce the news to the 700-strong workforce was a far cry from four months ago. There was the biggest applause and an amazing cheer, enough to give you your appetite for racing back." The general perception is that Button has underachieved in F1. After a promising debut season as a 20-year-old at Williams, he has struggled for consistency with a string of uncompetitive and unreliable cars at Williams, BAR and Honda.
The one bright spark was victory - his only grand prix win to date - at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix. But Button believes he still has more victories to come, saying: "I've still got a lot to prove in F1. I aim to be higher on the grid and I think it's still possible for me to win races. "I'm 29 and I still feel like a kid. It feels like 2000 all over again but I've got nine years experience this time."