London: A perfect British Grand Prix afternoon for Jenson Button at Silverstone on Sunday would be one that almost certainly ends in tears.
The 32-year-old has been a winner from Australia to the Americas, triumphed on the streets of Monaco and been crowned Formula One world champion, but in more than a decade of trying he has never stood on his home podium.
A win this time round would be just the ticket — quite literally since the McLaren driver’s face is on them this year as well as the wallet they come in, the spectator guide and assorted marketing material.
Button suspects he might shed a few tears if he gets on the podium and, with the huge and loyal following he and teammate Lewis Hamilton always command at home, will not be the only one struggling to contain his emotions.
“I’ve always thought about what it would be like to win the British Grand Prix, I’ve imagined it but you never know until it happens,” the 2009 champion said.
“I had the same thing when I was a kid thinking about racing in Monaco and winning the Monaco Grand Prix. And I did it in style [in 2009] by parking in the wrong place and running to the start/finish line. But I didn’t know I was going to do that.
“Winning when you have a lot of supporters there, people who have been supporting you for so many years and have really lifted you in difficult times, that means so much to a driver.”
Button is by no means a favourite, having struggled to score points and get his car performing properly since winning the season-opener in Australia, and his home record makes painful reading.
He has been fourth twice (2004, 2010) and fifth two times as well. A podium finish was looking likely last year until a wheel came off because a nut was not secured when he pitted 12 laps from the end.
Silverstone is one of the season’s fastest circuits and should play to the car’s strengths but that will make Hamilton, the last British winner at home in 2008, even more of a contender.
Unlike Button, he knows what it feels like.
“I can’t really explain how special it would be to win another Silverstone grand prix,” he said.
“To go back again and compete at the front and give the fans what they deserve and what they come for and hear the national anthem is the proudest moment for any sportsman.”
Other teams will also find it very much to their liking.
Red Bull have been on pole for the past three years in Britain and their car was alarmingly quick at the last race in Valencia before an alternator problem ended world champion Sebastian Vettel’s runaway afternoon.
Sunday could confirm fears that the champions have taken another big step up.
“They were clearly in a strong position with that car and those tyres,” Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn told a fan forum on Tuesday.
“Silverstone has traditionally been a good race for them, it’s high speed with high speed corners... so let’s see how it evolves.”
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, winner in Valencia to go 20 points clear in the championship after eight of 20 races, won at Silverstone last year in a race clouded by technical argument over engine mapping systems.
Mercedes and Lotus will be quick but Williams, winners in Barcelona with Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, and Sauber could be the dark horses.
“I think Sauber will be quick at Silverstone, which is something that will surprise quite a lot of people,” said Button.
“When you are driving behind their car in high-speed corners you notice they are very strong, so they’ll be up there, and they are also very efficient.”