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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 06:50 GMT 07:50 UK
Button relishes home advantage
BBC motor racing correspondent Jonathan Legard
By Jonathan Legard
BBC motor racing correspondent

Nigel Mansell used to claim that home support was worth two-tenths of a second per lap. As a four-time winner of the British Grand Prix, he repaid the crowd handsomely and frequently heroically.

Jenson Button
Button loves racing in front of his home crowd at Silverstone

Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and Damon Hill are among those who have also lapped up the adulation of the grandstands at Aintree, Brands Hatch and Silverstone.

Jenson Button and BAR are driven by the same dream.

"Home teams always play better on their home pitches and we're going to Silverstone," declares team principal, David Richards.

"To my knowledge, that's not the home pitch of Ferrari."

Michael Schumacher cannot stop winning in 2004 but that does not mean Button will stop believing that he can win this Sunday's British Grand Prix.

"We targeted our first win for around this point in the season and it goes without saying that it would be fantastic to achieve that this weekend," Button said.

"It's incredibly moving to race in front of my home crowd, especially with the sea of union jacks down the start-finish straight!"

"This race is special for so many reasons. I love racing here and will never forget my debut F1 race here four years ago when I passed Michael Schumacher on the first lap.

"He might have been on a different fuel load but that was a fantastic moment nonetheless."

Button came home a fantastic fifth on that occasion and had the crowd on their feet when he crossed the finishing line.

Last Sunday's finish in the same position in the French Grand Prix was a letdown, however, when so much more had been expected.

Toyota is Coulthard's preferred choice for next season and despite the team's deal with Ralf Schumacher officials have hinted that there could be a vacancy

Button's team-mate, Takuma Sato retired again because of another engine failure.

And the team is conscious that expectations are in danger of running ahead of reality.

"We cannot overlook the fact that the French Grand Prix was a disappointment for us and we will be doing everything possible in the days ahead to ensure we are fully on top of any factors which have compromised us," admitted Richards.

Button's biggest concern is that the car is not as quick as the team thought and at Magny Cours he lost out noticeably on the long straight up to the Adelaide Hairpin.

It meant he could not make a move on those immediately ahead and was a sitting target for those chasing from behind.

"In Magny-Cours we did not achieve either our full performance potential or reliability and both areas need addressing in the short run up to the British Grand Prix and beyond," said technical director, Geoff Willis.

"But we've been very strong in testing at Silverstone and we have to go there with a positive view.

"We were able to use the test in early June to work on the tyre choices with Michelin and investigate set-up solutions suited to the track. So going into our home race, we are confident of fighting for a good result."

Last season, the Brit pack contained a four-strong attack. In 2004 Button's only remaining companion is David Coulthard.

David Coulthard is flanked by Mika Hakkinen (left) and Michael Schumacher after winning the 2000 British Grand Prix
Coulthard (centre) is a two-time winner of the British Grand Prix

Coincidentally another Michelin runner with McLaren, he could tell Button plenty about the thrill of claiming a home victory.

He achieved the honour twice in succession, in 1999 and 2000, but unless the weather turns freakish or his new MP4-19B becomes a rocket, Coulthard looks like having to wait another year.

Qualifying third in France was as good as it got for McLaren last weekend. And the Scot is not hopeful of mounting an immediate challenge to Ferrari.

But while another determined performance in an improving car at Silverstone may not earn him the championship this season, it could bring him closer to resolving his prospects for 2005.

"Some idiots think that if you've got a slower car, that's as fast as you can pedal," he said in France.

"But I pedalled pretty well in qualifying and kept out of trouble in the race. That ability doesn't change as long as you have the desire and my desire is there."

With Juan Pablo Montoya set to replace him at McLaren, Toyota is Coulthard's preferred choice for next season, and despite the team's deal with Ralf Schumacher, officials have hinted that there could be a vacancy.

Cristiano Da Matta is set to return to US racing and Olivier Panis is under pressure to show greater consistency and competitiveness.

Jaguar looks like the other option for Coulthard but its resources and its chances of success are outscored by the Japanese giant.

That said, one team continues to outstrip both Ford and Toyota, and the rest of the F1 grid for that matter.

It has won the British Grand Prix for the last two years. And on current form, Silverstone should be on red alert for another Ferrari triumph.


SEE ALSO
Stewart hits back in GP row
07 Jul 04  |  Formula One
Williams backs London GP
07 Jul 04  |  Formula One
New threat hits British GP
06 Jul 04  |  Formula One


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