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Watching Button in the final weeks of his F1 career is akin to spending time with a much-loved elderly relative approaching the end.
Everyone knows the end is nigh, and as heartbreaking as it will be to let go and say goodbye, there is a quiet acceptance that the time has come.
As he recently told Motorsport.com’s Adam Cooper, Button has been counting down the days until his final grand prix, until he can quietly slip away into the afterlife known as rallycross and Super GT.
His enthusiasm for F1—his determination to fight on—suffered a fatal blow at Interlagos, where he was eliminated from the first segment of qualifying for the third time in four races and later told Sky Sports’ television coverage of his relief that he has just one race left to go.
Four years since his last grand prix victory, the rain of race day offered Button a hand for one last dance in the conditions in which he was once unbeatable.
But even a juicy, slippery track couldn’t provoke a response from the McLaren-Honda driver, one of the lost souls who flirted with the intermediate tyres on two separate occasions during the race.
“Struggling on both tyres!” he complained while running last on Lap 37, three laps after switching from extreme-wets to inters. “Just can’t get the tyres working.”
“Copy, Jenson, copy. Pace is OK, matching wet runners,” replied race engineer Tom Stallard, reassuring his driver that while the tyres didn’t feel great, they were delivering respectable times.
Those times were nowhere near fast enough, however, with Button still rooted to the rear of the field as the rain intensified.
“I think we’re gonna have to come in and put wets on. Aquaplaning is really bad.”
“Jenson, other cars are going to inter. Other cars are still going to inter,” Stallard said on Lap 44, a lap after Verstappen gambled on the green-striped rubber.
“I don’t care! I cannot drive through the last two corners with this tyre,” Button snapped back, encountering the same rivers that had caught out so many of his rivals on the hillclimb toward the start-finish straight.
Button’s wish was granted at the end of that lap, when he switched back to wets, yet he was still utterly helpless in the conditions.
Trundling behind the safety car after Felipe Massa’s crash on Lap 51, Button—whose sensitivity to a car’s handling is both his greatest strength and his biggest weakness—even felt compelled to insist the car, not the driver, was behind his poor performance.
“Yeah, seriously! The car is just not working, guys. I’ve not suddenly forgotten how to drive in the wet! It just comes from qualifying, the car’s the same.”
As reported by Autosport (h/t Eurosport), Button later suggested his car had developed a fundamental problem between Friday and Saturday, once again dismissing the notion that he—to put it bluntly—was past it.
The very fact he felt he had to deny his powers have faded proved it is time for Button to be put out of his misery.