British Grand Prix: Embattled Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso hope for turnaround in fortunes
After accumulating a total of more than 500 Grand Prix starts, 47 wins and three drivers` world championships, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button deserve the respect of being genuine race-winning contenders at this weekend`s British Grand Prix.
London: After accumulating a total of more than 500 Grand Prix starts, 47 wins and three drivers` world championships, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button deserve the respect of being genuine race-winning contenders at this weekend`s British Grand Prix.
They arrived at a steaming Silverstone on Thursday as something quite different.
Following a grim sequence of failures and non-finishes as the struggling McLaren-Honda team battled to find reliability and competitive pace, they were not far removed from figures of pity, fun or cruel jokes.
McLaren, the team that was once a byword for smooth supremacy and cool technical elan, has spluttered to make any impact this year.
Englishman Button, 35, returning to his home event, will not know if he should laugh or cry if the team suffers a repeat of the agonies in Austria where multiple penalties, following the installation of new power units, sent them to the back of the grid.
Both then retired pointless, Alonso following an opening lap accident that extended his run to an unprecedented four non-finishes in a so-far pointless season. Button collected four in Monaco, the team`s only score of the year to date.
Yet both remained upbeat and positive on Thursday when they reflected on this weekend`s contest.
"We feel optimistic after two good test days in Austria," Alonso explained.
"It was very positive that we were able to pass the 100-lap mark on the second day and we`re really motivated.
"Silverstone is a special race for the team, of course, and also a fantastic circuit to drive. It`s one of the fastest, which means it won`t suit our car so well, but we`re still looking forward to it."
Like two-time champion Alonso, Button refuses to allow a season of setbacks, engine failures, penalties and retirements to leave him downcast.
The 2009 champion has never finished on the podium at the British Grand Prix, but he showed undimmed enthusiasm for his home race - and the fans.
"I think, for a British driver, it`s very special because you`ve got the home support. I think it`s a great weekend. There seem to be a lot of British fans that really, truly love the sport and they show it," he said.
"Normally they get rained on, but still pretty much every year it`s a full house, whatever the conditions, which is fantastic. They are true, true racing fans. It reminds me of the old days of karting or racing in Formula Ford or F3.
"So for me, being British, I absolutely love the race even though it has always been a tricky one for me - not through lack of trying, just through speed most of the time!"
Both spoke after McLaren chief executive Jonathan Neale said the team was not avoiding facing the true depth of its problems.
"The days of being able to put a hand on a driver`s shoulder and say `trust me, it will be all right` are gone," he said. "And especially with Fernando and Jenson!
"They are pretty canny individuals and they know what they are doing. They`ve been around a long time and you can`t really BS them. They believe in what they see and will stay with you.... As long as you get the results."