Jenson Button rates his victory in Canada, his tenth in F1, as the best of his career after he survived six pit stops, five safety cars, and running last at one point, to take the checkered flag at the end of the four-hour grand prix.
“That was the best victory of my career, and today is therefore a very special day for me,” he said. “I fought my way from last to first to win the race, and I overtook the cars in front of me on the track. To win a grand prix by getting one over on your rivals with a series of strong overtaking moves makes it even better.
“Races in changing conditions are always very tricky – but I love it when you've got to search for grip on the track rather than knowing in advance where it is. It was an amazing victory – I don't think it could have been any better, especially after Monte-Carlo where we thought we had a win in the bag but were then disappointed at the very end. I was a little bit fortunate today when Sebastian [Vettel] made a mistake on the last lap, but I think we deserved that bit of luck!”
Button had an incident-packed race, and was involved in collisions with both Fernando Alonso and team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
“As far as the incident with Lewis is concerned, I couldn't see a thing behind me except a blur of Vodafone rocket-red, but that could have been my rear wing: obviously, it's the same colour as Lewis's car,” explained Button. “I moved to the left, which is the racing line, then I felt a bang, and I feared it was game over for both of us. Lewis knows that I didn't do it on purpose, and I know that he didn't do it on purpose either. I spoke to him before the race restarted, and it's all good.”
Hamilton was seen cheering Button on to victory as he watched the race from the McLaren hospitality area, and sounded as though he had forgiven his team-mate for the incident that ended his race very early.
“First of all, I have to offer my heartfelt congratulations to Jenson – he drove an absolutely incredible race and thoroughly deserved this victory,” he said. “It was an utterly fantastic performance, from a truly great driver.
“I'm also sorry for the team; they've worked really hard this week and we could have done with the points that a two-car finish would have earned us today.
“Although the conditions were very tricky from the start, I had pretty good grip and I was doing the best I could to keep the car on the track; I think I had pretty good race pace, and I didn't have any particular problems.
“I touched Mark's [Webber] car after he braked a bit early into the first corner. He left me enough room, but I touched the inside kerb and understeered into him.
“Then I started fighting back. After I fell back behind Jenson, he outbraked himself into the final chicane and got a poor exit, so I was able to get a good run on him. It felt to me like I was halfway alongside him down the pits straight – but, as he probably hadn't spotted me, he continued moving across on the racing line.
“There was no room for me, so I hit the wall. Of course, I don't think it was intentional: I know Jenson well enough and I know he wouldn't do that. He's a good guy.
“So, now, I'll just focus on the next race and the rest of the season. It would be great if we could qualify a little higher up the grid in order to stay out of trouble in Valencia; but our race pace is good and I really want to do well there.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said that the collision between his two drivers was viewed by the team as ‘a racing incident’ and refused to apportion blame. He was full of praise for Button and the race in general:
“The 2011 Canadian Grand Prix may well be remembered as one of the most eventful, exciting and suspenseful races in Formula 1 history,” he said.
“After a spell of torrential rain that made the circuit undriveable and triggered a lengthy red flag period, the race restarted with Jenson in 21st place. It soon became apparent that his car was in good shape, but what followed almost defied credence. In fact I think I've heard the word 'unbelievable' shouted at me by joyful colleagues about a hundred times this afternoon, and in truth Jenson's drive was exactly that: absolutely unbelievable. Other adjectives that spring to mind are 'heroic', 'majestic', 'magnificent' and 'superb'!
“The boys did a great job too – they performed six pitstops for Jenson alone, in difficult conditions, under enormous pressure – and this dramatic win underlines the extraordinary team spirit that exists within Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.
“Our car's race pace has been consistently strong in Montreal today, in Monte-Carlo two weeks ago, and in Barcelona a week before that; next we'll go on to Valencia, where we'll be hoping to build on this victory and that consistent baseline of competitive speed.
“Lewis had a frustratingly short race, which ended when he and Jenson made contact at the beginning of the start-finish straight. We took the decision to ask him to stop his car on the track, and our post-race inspection revealed that that was the correct choice: his suspension was damaged to such an extent that it would have been impossible to continue.
“In our view it was just a racing incident, and both Lewis and Jenson share that view. So did the FIA stewards, who did an excellent job in tricky conditions today. Sometimes an accident is no-one's fault, and this was one of those occasions.
“Like Jenson, Lewis is already looking forward to Valencia, where I hope and expect that MP4-26, and both its drivers, will be capable of scoring another win.
“Bring it on!”
And the final thoughts from McLaren on their victory come from Button himself: “I want to offer big congrats to Dave [Robson], my race engineer. We haven't won together before, so this is a very special result for him as well as for me. Now, I just want to enjoy this moment; it's been a long time coming and it couldn't have been much sweeter.
“I can't stop smiling now!”