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Jenson Button Takes the Blame for Schumi’s Performance Lag

McLaren pilot Jenson Button has made the paradoxical statement that he should be both credited for Michael Schumacher’s return to Formula 1, and blamed for Schumi’s poor performance.

Button allowed that his last minute departure from Mercedes, then branded as Brawn, led team boss Ross Brawn to reach out in a hurry for a top notch replacement.  “The Germans should be grateful,” Button told Sports Bild recently. “With my move to McLaren at the end of last year, it allowed Michael Schumacher to comeback.”

It wasn’t exactly a move out of the blue, however.  Naturally, as Brawn had worked with Schumacher for many years and Benettton and Ferrari, it was only natural that he’d consider Schumi for the newly open seat at Brawn/Mercedes.

After all, Brawn had been making tentative overtures to bring the German ace on board from the time he first assumed the tech director role at Honda.  This continued during the Brawn phase, of the team, as well.  Schumi himself admitted he wasn’t surprised to get the call.  The only surprise to most onlookers was that Button had opened the door in the first place.  Of course, some paddock pundits will insist that Ross Brawn opened it for him.

Naturally, those comments were uttered tongue-in-cheek.  But on a more serious note, Button also confirmed what many gear heads have suspected all along.  Namely, that the current Mercedes is an evolved iteration of previous Honda/Brawn cars which had been designed around Button’s driving preferences.  And Button is a very different driver from Schumacher.  Button is known for his smooth style, and he prefers a car that tends towards understeer.  Schumi, on the other hand, prefers a “nervous” car, i.e. a car that lies somewhere between neutral and oversteery on the handling continuum.

As Button put it, “The current car is different from what Michael is accustomed to.  Michael likes a car that steers directly. But the Mercedes understeers very strongly. It was always like that because I wanted it to be like that.”

Button also cautioned paddock prophets against writing off the Schumi comeback effort too soon.  “One should not judge him before next season” he said, “as he will have more influence on the development of the car. His comeback decision was quite late and the basic characteristics of the current Mercedes were already in place long before his signature.”

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