By Alan Baldwin
SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) – Jenson Button fears he may have driven for the last time the Brawn GP car that took him to a stunning 2009 Formula One world championship.
A decade on from one of the most extraordinary seasons in the sport’s history, the Briton enjoyed putting the car through its paces again at Silverstone in the build-up to the British Grand Prix.
“It was a real pleasure,” said the 39-year-old, now a pundit for Sky Sports television, whose lap on Thursday was for the cameras rather than the crowd.
“It might be the last time I ever drive it because it’s the only gearbox left. And the only wishbones left. And obviously they are carbon fibre so they are lifed (with a defined lifetime).
“They can become lifed after a very short period of time, the glue goes off. They (the engineers) were doing an ultrasound on the wishbones, making sure there weren’t any hairline cracks or anything,” he continued.
“And I’m just about to jump in the car and do 300kph. And I came past the old pits flat through the corner, which is an easy flat corner, but Ross (Brawn) said he felt quite nervous seeing the car go at full speed.”
Ross Brawn, the former Honda team boss who put his name to the team after keeping them afloat following the Japanese manufacturer’s withdrawal at the end of 2008, owns the car Button won the title in.
There are two others — one without the full internals that Button owns and keeps in a warehouse, and another belonging to Mercedes, who provided the engines and bought Brawn at the end of 2009.
The gearbox in Brawn’s car, Button said, is the only working one and there are no spares.
“When Mercedes bought the team, the car became the show car,” he added. “So it basically did two years of doing ‘donuts’ (spins) and burnouts. So they destroyed all the gear-boxes.
“And you can’t build more wishbones because the tools were thrown away. And they were crushed. Why would you do that?
“I do have one (car) at home but I’ve just been told mine doesn’t have internals and the gearbox. No-one told me that when they gave me the ‘complete’ car,” smiled the Briton, who is hoping to put his on display in a museum in Los Angeles.
Button won six of the first seven races in his title season with a car that was in a class of its own from the moment it first broke cover. He won the title in Brazil that October.
“It’s such a small car compared to what we have now,” he said of his impressions now.
“It’s a lot narrower, that’s the regulations, but it’s also really short because you don’t have the battery packs and the fuel cell. It doesn’t need to be so big because we had refuelling. The thing’s tiny and it’s just beautiful.
“It doesn’t look out of date at all. The front wing’s a bit big, and not the prettiest thing, but apart from that the car is stunning.
“I jumped in, used the same seat, same seat belt, position, drove out of the garage and everything just worked like I remembered… everything just felt very natural.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)