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Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Jenson Button gears up for Lewis Hamilton head-to-head

By Frank Keogh
BBC Sport in Sheffield

Jenson Button
Button collected second place at the Sports Personality of the Year

Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button has told BBC Sport he is relishing the "huge challenge" of racing with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren next season.

The successive world champions will team up as they seek to bring a third consecutive drivers' title to Britain.

"It will be a hell of a challenge going up against Lewis," said Button after finishing second to Ryan Giggs in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

"But I need that challenge," he added. "I'm going to have to work very hard."

Within a year, Button has gone from being potentially without a drive to champion of the world.

Last December Honda announced its immediate withdrawal from F1 and the future of the team hung in the balance until team boss Ross Brawn headed a management buy-out just three weeks before the start of the 2009 season.

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Button went on to win a first drivers' title and the constructors' crown with Brawn, which has now been taken over by Mercedes.

"It's been a very emotional year," he said backstage at the awards show, which was watched by an 11,000-strong crowd at the Sheffield Arena.

"I dreamed of winning the world championship since I was eight years old. To come away with a world championship in Formula 1 is all my dreams come true."

Button, who began karting at the age of eight, decided to leave his team after seven years for a fresh start.

The world champion is under no illusions about what lies ahead as he takes on Hamilton, who came through McLaren's development programme to win the 2008 world title in just his second season.

"McLaren alongside Lewis Hamilton will be a challenge, a huge challenge," added Button.

We get on well. He's a very talented driver and is going to be a good person to work with

Jenson Button on Lewis Hamilton

"I'm going to have to work very, very hard."

Asked if he was nervous about defending his title with a new team, Button said: "Nervous, no, excited, yes."

The two British champions return to the grid for Bahrain's opening grand prix on 14 March and Button believes the pair can engage in some healthy competition.

"We get on well. I know him reasonably well from our karting days," said Button, who at 30 is five years older than his new team-mate.

"Every time we have met and chatted, we've got on really well. He's a very talented driver and is going to be a good person to work with."

Button nominated Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull as the teams most likely to trouble McLaren next season.

Despite being an odds-on favourite for much of the year to win the Sports Personality of the Year award, Button had to settle for second place, just like Hamilton in the previous two years.

The Somerset-born driver received 96,770 votes compared to Giggs' 151,842.

"Of course, we are all very competitive people, that's why we are here in the first place," he said.

"There are some people out there who don't think what we do is even sport, which I obviously disagree with, but I'm happy to be second and pleased for Giggsy, while a little disappointed."



see also
Giggs shocked to land BBC award
14 Dec 09 |  Sports Personality
Giggs wins BBC Personality award
13 Dec 09 |  Sports Personality
Button backs new F1 points system
12 Dec 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton challenge excites Button
19 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton-Button dream team at McLaren
18 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Button joins Hamilton at McLaren
18 Nov 09 |  Formula 1


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