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Massa: Button is buckling under the pressure
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Massa: Button is buckling under the pressure
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Sep 2009   |  8:40 am GMT  |  68 comments

Also in today’s Guardian interview with Felipe Massa is an interesting section where he talks about the championship battle and the recent, alarming decline in the form of Jenson Button. According to Massa, who fought Lewis Hamilton for last year’s world championship, Button is buckling under the pressure as the end of the championship comes into view and this offers Massa’s friend and fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello the chance to win the title,

Remember these days? (Darren Heath)

Remember these days? (Darren Heath)

“Look at me, ” says Massa. “I came to Brazil six points behind [Hamilton], and I almost won the championship. That was one race. Rubens has five races to close 16 points. It’s a big possibility. But it depends on Jenson. If Jenson carries on in this bad way it will help Rubens a lot. In my opinion, Jenson has gone down because of the pressure. It’s the only reason.

“At the start of the season everything was nice, everything was easy. He was in a new team winning six out of the first seven races. That’s different to fighting hard for the championship. Now he has a different kind of pressure. In the earlier races he was almost half a second quicker than some teams. You win the race easy and there is not so much pressure. But now we have races where things are more difficult. So for me the pressure has had a big impact on his mind – and he needs to deal with it better. If he does not cope with the pressure he will not win the championship.”

Button’s results in the last five races are 6th, 5th, 7th, 7th, Retired – giving a total of 11 points. Barrichello has scored 21 points in the same period, including a win in Valencia.

Button’s saving grace however has been the rise of the KERS cars, the McLaren and the Ferrari during this period. Ferrari has had a car on the podium at every race since Germany, including a win for Raikkonen, while McLaren has had two podiums including a win for Hamilton. KERS cars are expected to do well this weekend at Monza and with Renault joining their ranks for the weekend, may stop any of Button’s rivals from scoring big points to eat into his championship lead.

But Button could definitely do with a confidence boosting result soon.

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1

I am sure Jenson Button will be ok, providing his qualifying pace is good enough to keep him away from any midfield opening lap tussels.

2

Why is it that Jenson Button will be the most controversial champion since Damon Hill or Keke Rosberg?

I am not taking anything away from his pole to chequered flag wins, he performs great in a well set-up car…as we saw in 2004.

I think it’s because unlike the greats he has never pulled out a killer performance in an underperforming car. Where is his Spain 1996, his Hungary 1998? I also can’t forget the way that he was crushed by Fisichella at Benetton.

3

I’m sure it’s been said before that what marks out a deserving champ is that they can win when they have the chance, but when they don’t they can bring home the steady points…

Well Jenson has been doing that (aside from getting rear-ended in Spa through no fault of his own)…

4

You could say that this season has demonstrated three things about Jenson:

(1) Give him a near-perfect car and he will perform perfectly, time after time again. Here he transcends even the biggest names in the sport. I talk here about the 6/7 at the beginning of this season.

(2) Give him a car which is not to his liking and he struggles ‘outperform the car’ in a way in which other stellar drivers do not. I talk here about the ‘slump’ although to an extent this may be unfair on Jenson, since what seems to be the problem is particular problem with the way the Brawn uses its tyres, a problem which is exacerbated for Jenson by his driving style.

(3) But even in the case of (2), he is relentlessly mistake-free, in conspicuous contrast to his main championship rivals. Hence, even in the slump, his points lead has survived relatively unscathed.

I doubt there is much to the suggestion that he is ‘cracking’ under the pressure; of course, there is pressure and, perhaps, this has some effect, but there seem to be much more concrete reasons for the recent ‘slump’.

5

Button is 16pts ahead of Rubens with 5 races to go. Will he lose (on average) 3pts per race to Rubens? I think not, at least not in normal circumstances. Therefore, one has to presume, that as long as Button can amass 20 more points before the end of the season (that’s 2 wins & 3 DNFs, or 5 4th places) then he will win the title. I think that’s a certainty to be honest. Button ain’t the best driver on the grid by a longshot, but he doesn’t deserve this kind of negative analysis all the time. And I wish Massa would keep his nose out of things that don’t concern him.

6

I’m a Ferrari and Massa supporter, but I think the guy with these statements on Button lost an opportunity to be a gentleman.

what is the point of saying anything like that?

Beside, I think the other 3 contender for the title, have a mountain to clim to catch Button. Now that the Ferraris, Mc Larens and maybe Force India can get on the podium with at least one driver easily, it will be hard work for the like of Webber,Vettel and Barrichello to set foot on one of the steps.

Without “big points”, the 3 guys behind Button, will have hard time to get ahead of him even if he scores just an handful of point till the end of the season.

Guys like Webber and Barrichello can do very little to the likes of Hamilton and Kimi when they have a decent car.

7

It’s a vicious circle of pressure for Button – if he chokes he’ll never be taken up by a top team for his remaining career. If he can become WDC it’ll make him a more powerful proposition for the remainder of his career.

The jury is out on whether he’s a star (not a superstar) or a journeyman – a Keke Rosberg or a John Watson…

8

Hi James, thanks for your earlier reply on the ITVF1 site, I appreciate it.

As far as Button is concerned, I don’t think its a conincidence that his good form ended right about the period he was making a foolish statement “I”m the best there ever was”. Being in F1 for so long, Button should have known better than to attribute his success to his own “super-talent” rather than to take into account an extraordinary set of circumstances that have propelled him right to the top.

9

Have no problem with Button being champion-certainly more worthy than either Webber/Barrichello who are and always will be ‘journeymen’.However Button is making heavy weather of it and cant be a coincidence that lots of top drivers like Kimi and Kubica are being mentioned as possible Brawn drivers next year-Ross must have his doubts!Massa should keep quiet,even before the crash Ferrari had Alonso lined up which surely indicates that they dont think Massa is the force he thinks he is!

10

Fair go people, At least Massa speaks his mind.

Button will still “probably” win the WDC.

The question is, How close do either RedBull driver have to get before Ross slots Rubens into the rear gunner position?

11

Correct me if I am wrong, but in 2000 didn’t schumacher go 6 races without a win before climbing the top step at Monza before going on to win the title.

Also could you post a response from JB when you quiz him on the helmet JA?

12

I don’t get why people are so down on Button all the time. Brawn was comparing him to one of his former illustrious drivers earlier in the season. Button it’s true has suffered due to car handling issues and some drop in his own performance, but that no one has closed much of a gap in the last 5 races not only tells you that no one else deserves the title anymore than you think Button might not but also highlights how supremely well he drove even when he wasn’t expected to win earlier in the season and put in the performances when he needed too.

Last race at Spa, his closest rival still cocked it up on the start line. No doubt he’ll be complaining of favouritism again.

Button had a single glitch in qulifying in Valencia on the single lap that he did in Q3 and it put him in P5. Add to that Vettel taking a nothing to lose attack off the start line knowing that he might not even finish the race I though Button did well to come away with 2 points when in fact he might not even have finished the race if he’d tangled with Vettel. Vettel DNF, Button 2 points. I’d say that was not a disastrous result.

Button has been in a decent car for one season and he’s looking good for the title. Massa has had one for how long? 3 and a half seasons and he’s always been playing catch up or second fiddle. Massa wants to look at his own form and that of his team. Poor wet races, ill timed defense and attacking moves, poorly judged pit lane releases and cock ups.

I think in comparison Button has shown to be the better driver. And he doesn’t whinge half so much as other drivers or people think he does.

13

STOP PRESS – Massa did not call Kimi to congratulate him on his famous victory at Spa!

Wonder if Kimi’s been crying and bellyaching about that ever since?

As for Rubens, he sure does not convince as a likely wdc. Nor do Button or Webber. Vettel [who does look up for it] going to need all the luck in the world to finish the next 5 races.

Is it conceivable that none of the above wins the championship?

14

No, mathematically basically everyone but the top four is ruled out. Kimi is next in the points, 38 behind Jenson. If Kimi wins the last five races in a row (six straight) in a car that is not being developed further then he has a slight chance. Lewis is 45 points behind so six points is all Jenson needs to stop Lewis.

It will be one of the top four that wins.

15

There are two things that people should keep in mind.

1) All the cars seem to be very picky about the tracks.

Go to a slow track like Monaco, Hungary, Valencia and the McLarens are fast. The Red Bulls are not so fast and the Toyota’s hardly seem to move at all.

Go to a fast track with high speed corners like China, Bahrain, Silverstone and the Red Bulls are unbeatable. The Toyota’s are doing fine there too, but then the McLaren’s are slow as a snail.

So things haven’t changed. The tracks are simply different. Look at how McLaren surged for a few tracks and then fell back again.

Brawn really needs to be careful analysing the test data too. What worked for them in Valencia might not work at all on other tracks. That mistake is probably what got them in this pickle to begin with. They assume they bring the right package, but it seems incredibly difficult to predict what works well on a certain circuit.

2) Button has performed incredibly well during the first 7 races when for most of those races the Brawn wasn’t the fastest car.

The Red Bull has been the fastest car for the majority of races. Things like poor Red Bull strategies and poor driving of all Button’s competitors (like 4 crashes for Vettel this season and many poor middle stints for Barrichello) while Button himself made no mistakes, gave him 6 wins in 7 races. That’s simply an amazing feat. Even if it was in part also because the competition failed a lot.

His competition has not shown anything all year. The Red Bulls were miles faster in the rain of China and on Silverstone and scored an easy one two. Barrichello drove impressive in Valencia, but that really is his only good race all season. Webber had a good race in Germany and in Turkey.

So in reality Button’s competition has been doing poorly all season. Each of them had at best maybe 1 or 2 drives that stood out. Button had 6 great drives!

Now he finally has a a few less than stellar races and he gets burned to the ground? Purrrrlease!

I don’t think Monza will work well for the Brawn car. Japan should be Red bull territory too. Singapore and Abu Dhabi should be better for the Brawn cars.

16

I think that your selection of great drives is a bit thin. You’ve also ignored the major step-ups in performance Red Bull made in aero at Silverstone (67 new bits) and McLaren at Germany/Hungary (entirely new front wing aero concept as to how the air goes around and over the rest of the car). Jenson had a good drive in China in the rain where the wet weather performance was an issue. Otherwise for the first seven races the Brawn has been the best race car. The Red Bull early season performance was biased towards qualifying compared to the Brawns.

The cars are being consistently improved. In making the car faster the Brawn has become less “nice” and tyre management has changed in a way that appears to favour Rubens in qualifying. At the same time, the other teams have made more gains than Brawn. The status quo from Melbourne remained then Valencia would have seen an all-Brawn front row.

17

The Red Bull has been faster in Q2 for 4 out of the first 7 races. Obviously from Silverstone onwards they have been faster than the Brawns (if not all cars) in all but one race.

In total the Red Bull was the fastest car in qualifying for 7 out 12 events and at Spa they were faster than the Brawn GP’s

So all in all the Red Bull has been the fastest car this season by far.

The fact that they didn’t cash in on their qualifying performance lies in their poor strategies (getting Vettel stuck behind KJERS cars while the slower Button qualified light and kept in front or overook them). Major part is of course Vettel crashing in 4 races. Serioulsy, 4 races where he was involved in race ending accidents! Webber had some accidents too and he’s not really the fastest driver.

18

i still think the lad will do it , one win and a couple of 3rd and 4th should do it.

19

Button needs to start winning again for his own peace of mind and to silence his critics. The last thing he needs is for people to question if his title (if he wins it) was merely because of the double diffuser row.

I’m a Ferrari fan so don’t particularly care if JB wins it or not but is clear that something has changed. What remains to be seen is if it’s the car or the man.

20

Jenson is said to be very “kind” to his tires, maybe the fact that Bridgestone has abandoned the strategy of supplying compounds beeing further apart is hurting him, i.e. they now supply super soft and soft instead of super soft and medium?

21

This is actually a pretty salient point. JB had a knack of making the wrong tyre work better than RB.

Which race did they stop doing that and move to a closer compound? I actaully think that this is one of the things that helped to increase the drivers effect on the speed of the car

22

Sorry for being so negative but Massa looks smarter when he doesn’t speak much. For sure Button feels pressure, but it’s not that he can’t handle it. There has been some bad luck and car has not been to his liking, it doesn’t mean that he can’t handle the pressure. Look at Button after retiring in Spa, he was like “whatever”.

Like somebody said earlier in this thread, it feels more like Massa is playing mindgames. I mean it’s the same guy who talked to press that Kimi didn’t call him as much as he would have wanted, I think that says it all.

23

The Brawn has gone backwards but Button himself is admitting he has not done well enough in qualifying, which is affecting his races, recently. This is particularly noticeable in comparison with Barrichello. Jenson does need to up his game, which I am sure he realises, and much of what Massa has said has been written by the press already, making his observations really of academic interest but little relevance, especially as JB will be both fully aware and understanding of Massa’s friendship with Rubens.

Perhaps, using Badoer’s logic, it will be Massa’s fault if Button fails this weekend! I think not but Monza will be very difficult because of the KERS cars, particularly as cooler temperatures are likely, I’m told. Button needs to understand this too, not panic if 5th or 6th is all that is possible and just try to beat his team mate and the Red Bulls; then come out all guns blazing for the remaining races.

24

Perhaps, using Badoer’s logic, it will be Massa’s fault if Button fails this weekend!

Thats the mythical “Badoer effect”.

25

Jenson needs to finish at least 5th in the next 2 races. Then I believe he will be back to winning/podium ways at Suzuka, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Ferrari and Mclaren will probably win the next 2 races, but Button just has to ride the storm. Like when Red Bull started winning races.

Jenson for the Title.

26

I found it strange how button who achieved hardly anything upto 2007 was criticising Hamilton for losing the championship and he is about to do the same. Button listen to Massa, lift you game!!!!

27

Look up your history.

3rd in 2004, beaten only by the Ferraris, also beating a former world champion in the same team.

28

yes he had the second best car and he couldn’t even win a race. Montoya, Trulli and Raikkonen managed to win races with slower cars.

Everyone’s angry at Massa but i don’t remember anyone mentioning Buttons comments in 2007.

29

Comeon – this is just Massa’s way of simply saying that he does not believe that Jenson is in the premier league of drivers.

The points system needs to be changed if a guy who performed for less than half of the season runs away with the championship.

30

Indeed those slackers like Vettel, Webber and Barrichello should never be allowed to become WDC since the completely wasted the first half of the season when Button was driving steady and scoring 6 wins against faster cars.

Now they perform slightly above average for a few races and now all of a sudden they think they can be WDC. I say … HA!

With medals the season could be over after the next race. Wouldn’t that be cool?

31

Or maybe Massa meant exactly what he said and you are projecting….

32

Although I am not British I do wish British (English) drivers well. I recon there is absolutely nothing that can take the title away from Jenson. He has done enough in my opinion to deserve it already and he keeps on doing well. Despite his seemingly poor results he manages to keep the points’ gap to other drivers, which I use as a proof for the existence of an intangible trend that is going to carry him all the way along to glory. That is unless Jenson damages the trend by being unaware of it.

I too, like Massa, believe that there is much more to it than our eyes can see.

33

How can a driver who only did well in the first seven races and performed poorly at the rest of the season justify to be the World Champion? In addition, most of his results at the beginning of the season were down to the car.

34

He scored more point!!!

35

Button’s problems all started when he changed his helmet design. The interim one he had at the begining of the season bought him luck. He should go back to it and he’ll start perfroming better again.

36

James,

If you look at the picture, quite clearly JB’s downturn is the change of helmet. Do you agree?

Do you have access to chat to him? Maybe you could point it out?

37

Ha Ha! Yes my girlfriend says that at every race, Jenson don’t wear the ‘Bad’ Helmet.

38

I’ll see what he says

39

Plus his Dad doesn’t wear that pink shirt anymore!

40

Bloody hell…if that’s true the writing’s on the wall!

John, put the DelMonte garb back on immediately. And why did Jense change his helmet design anyway?

Back as you were both of you and let’s get this thing done.

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