• Button plays down expectations for British Grand Prix
• ‘This year is tough. We are still a long way behind’
Jenson Button has admitted that his long wait for a podium finish at Silverstone is unlikely to come to an end at the British Grand Prix.
It has been a disastrous season for McLaren, whose redesigned car has had profound problems from the start of the year; they are back in sixth place in the constructors’ championship, behind the traditional midfield teams of Lotus and Force India. And in Montreal this month their run of 64 consecutive points-finishes came to an end when Button and his team-mate Sergio Pérez failed to make it into the top 10.
Button, who is in 10th position in the drivers’ championship, 107 points behind the leader and world champion Sebastian Vettel, said: “This year is tough. We are developing the car at the factory but we are still a long way behind.
“We would love to be able to give the fans a win. We will still give the best we have. The important thing is that we do everything we can to put on a good show for the British fans – whether that is finishing fifth or seventh, I don’t know where we are going to be – but we have to feel we got everything out of it and we are happy with our achievement.”
It has been a desperately disappointing season for Button, who at the start of the year thought he had a chance of winning a second world title. His prospects were enhanced by Lewis Hamilton’s switch to Mercedes.
But now, at 33, he must come to terms with the reality that his chances of a second championship are remote. After McLaren’s “gap year” this season the team will find it very difficult to mount a sustained challenge in 2014. That is when their contract with the engine supplier Mercedes comes to an end as they prepare to return to Honda for 2015.
Button says the Silverstone experience is still a special one for him, however. “I still look forward to the British Grand Prix. I have a lot of good memories, even though I haven’t had a podium. The fans are so supportive and I have been here in difficult times before and still [been] surprised by the support they have given me.
“Driving in front of the home crowd is very special. I came here in 1994, watching at Copse and Becketts, and watching the McLarens, Williams and Ferraris, to hear, see and smell a Formula One car.”
He added: “Maybe we did take a gamble with the direction of the car and it has not worked for us, but we are still a great team and we will fight back and win races again.”Button also claims the sport is well supported, despite the contrived nature of much of the racing because of the tyre degrading leading to excessive pit stops.
He said: “I don’t think people are walking away from the sport. If you look at every sporting event, it is not as strong as maybe it was last year. That is just the way the world is at the moment.
“To sell out here would be very impressive but are there that many people who can afford to come? I agree that some of the racing hasn’t been action-packed. It has been a lot more: ‘After you, sir, because I am looking after my tyres’. But there have been good races. I am sure it makes a difference that a British driver has not won a grand prix this year.”
Sport: Formula One 2013 | guardian.co.uk