Jenson Button has been talking about his role as lead driver in the McLaren team following Lewis Hamilton’s switch to Mercedes for the forthcoming season. When asked by the Press Association whether he will relish a senior role within the team he answered,
“Definitely,”“It’s not the first time I’ve done that. When I got to BAR and Jacques Villeneuve left it was exactly the same situation.”
Jenson joined the British American Racing Team from Renault in 2003 to replace the departing Olivier Panis. His new team mate was Jacques Villenueve, around whom the team was supposed to be built, an attempt at emulating Schumacher’s presence at Ferrari. The 2007 World Champion left the team acrimoniously following the Japanese Grand Prix that year and promoted from his position as test driver, inexperienced Japanese driver Takuma Sato took his seat. This turn of events gave Button the opportunity to make the team his, a chance undertaken successfully leading the team to parachute their way up the constructors table from fifth in 2003 to second in 2004, grabbing third in the driver’s championship for himself. His leadership of the team continued until the end of the 2009 season when he was crowned World Champion.
It is not the first time he has stepped into the role of lead driver at McLaren. For Lewis Hamilton, the 2011 season had a lot of meltdown moments, both in Formula One and in his personal life. Although both acquired three victories during that season, Jenson Button was the more consistent driver, appearing on the podium twelve times compared with six from Lewis. He finished runner up in the championship to Sebastian Vettel, while Lewis languished in fifth, 43 points behind.
Not only was Button surpassing his team mate on the track, he was also displaying superior leadership skills within the team. His affable nature and genuine attentiveness towards people around him, endear him to them, resulting in good working relationships through which success can bloom. In contrast to this, Lewis Hamilton is surrounded by an air of petulance and has often acted in ways that could alienate the team around him. His omission of thanks to the team for helping him secure pole position for the Korean Grand Prix is one such example.
Now Jenson has a fledgling team mate. Although Sergio Perez has completed two years in Formula One he is still young and relatively inexperienced, especially when he will be dealing with the sort of pressure he will be under at McLaren. The 2009 World Champion will be the number one driver at the team, and will begin his role with an ambition to take the title again in 2013, so building the team around him to ensure that happens will be of utmost priority. However, his generosity of spirit will no doubt see him nurturing his team mate, so that he too, can be a successful leader in the future.