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Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 17:41 UK

Brackley welcomes F1 hero Button

Jenson Button
Button joined the staff celebration at Brawn GP's Brackley HQ

By Ross Heaton
BBC Oxford

Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button has made a hero's return to the Brawn GP factory in Brackley.

The 29-year-old made the visit to pay tribute to the staff who helped Brawn achieve the driver's and constructor's titles in their maiden season.

Button, who joined the team under its previous incarnation of Honda in 2003, offered a champagne toast to colleagues who have been crucial to his success.

The driver also stopped to sign autographs for fans waiting outside.

Since earning the driver's crown at Interlagos, Button was flown straight back to the UK for a promotional event at a shopping centre in Kent where he was quick to acknowledge this triumph was at the end of a long and painful journey for the team.

Jenson Button
Button was all smiles as he congratulated workers

"I have experienced so much with this team. We have been through some some fantastic times and a lot of very difficult times, " said Button.

Brawn's F1 headquarters is one of the major employers in the market town, and when Honda announced they were pulling out of the sport in January the future for the factory looked bleak.

A management buy-out organised by team principal Ross Brawn and chief executive Nick Fry safeguarded some of the workforce but 170 people were still made redundant as the fledgling team attempted to cut costs.

Ross Brawn, who was moved to a rare display of raw emotion on claiming silverware in Sao Paulo, acknowledged the debt they owe to those who are no longer with the firm.

Brawn GP factory
Brawn GP were quick to proclaim their achievements in Brackley

"The work they did over the winter was sensational. I have to say to all the people who couldn't be with us, because we had to re-size the team, my thanks goes out to them.

"They worked all winter and then they had to leave the team. I hope they have enjoyed what they have achieved as they have been part of what we've done," said Brawn.

Mike Puller, who works in the windtunnel at Brawn, was also close to tears on his arrival at the factory the morning after the Brazilian Grand Prix.

"It's been 11 years in the making and is absolutely awesome for everyone that has gone through what we have gone through in the last 12 months," he told BBC Oxford.

"We didn't know what was going on, and you just couldn't write the story. I'm just choked up."

Brackley residents not directly involved with the team have also been quick to show their pride and support with banners visible in many of the shops and houses in the town.

Brackley's mayor Caryl Billingham said: "I think we should celebrate success, and whether we like Formula 1 or not, be proud of it for Britain and for our area in Brackley."

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