Lewis Hamilton’s withdrawal from McLaren, professionally and emotionally, has fired up an even stronger bond backstage for his soon-to-be-ex partner Jenson Button.
They are not, on their own admission, bosom buddies rather bodies of mutual, if cool respect. And Button, the likeable, immensely popular, knowledgeable and ultra-clever driver will inherit Hamilton’s widely presumed long-running position as McLaren’s No. 1.
Few Grand Prix heroes are as worthy of the elevation to leading light status as Button, the 2009 champion with Ross Brawn’s Mercedes, whose virtues both professionally and privately have earned him a level of warmth among the mechanics in the garage rarely seen in Formula One.
From season’s end Brazil, just one race away, building the bridges for 2013, McLaren will be Team Button — if it is not the case already as I suspect. I believe he has grown tired of Hamilton’s antics and attitude, vastly different and not nearly so sensible or amenable as in his formative F1 years. The same goes for the back-up boys.
Button, easy going until he gets behind the wheel, has opened up in rare fashion on the Hamilton situation and their relationship and connectivity with the team. Now 31 and a winner 14 times, Button is all set to see out his career with McLaren and he said ahead of the finale: “You have to be natural with the guys in the garage. They understand whether it is fake or real.
“Having a good working relationship is important to me — but it is not something I aim to do. It is just that I like spending time with the guys I work with.
“They are giving their heart and soul to my car. When we win a Grand Prix, we win together. When we lose, we lose together. That is the way it has to be and I never force my emotions on people in the wrong way. I am always natural and it has to be that way because they see straight through you when it is not.
“We are friends as well as work colleagues and that is the key to a good relationship. They understand if I am in a bad mood and they know how to react if I have done a good or a bad job.
“It works the other way as well — understanding one another as human beings and not just workmates.”
Button, who joined McLaren and linked with Hamilton in 2010, went on: “I feel very at home here. I don’t know if Lewis does or does not and that is not important to me. The important thing is that I have a great rapport with the engineers and mechanics.
“That is crucial because you spend so much time with them and you have to have a good understanding and firm relationship. I feel I can help develop and move the team forward whether it is the car or helping the team evolve.”
Could all, or any, of the above apply to Hamilton? I wonder…