Shortly after Michael Schumacher's career ended with the final race of 2006 in Brazil, Jenson Button celebrated his third place finish next to two of the three drivers that he will be competing with for the championship next season, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. Kimi Raikkonen, who will take Schumacher's slot at Ferrari in 2007, completes the trio of challengers that Button will have to topple to win his first championship.
All three drivers are blazingly quick and will be in top cars. But for the Honda F1 brass, the pure fact that 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher is no longer on the grid gives the team great hope for a title in 2007.
"Michael's departure puts Jenson Button in the position of one of the top three drivers in Formula 1," said Nick Fry, the team principal of Honda F1, "and that's a huge opportunity for us."
Fry points to the win at Hungary, where Button came from 14 on the grid to win. It was Button's first win, and the team's maiden win. "Hungary was the icing on the cake for us," Fry said. "It has made a subtle but significant difference to the way in which the team operates. The team now knows it can win."
More importantly, the win changed the way Button approaches grand prix. "He has that one percent extra confidence of a person who knows he can win."