Rarely does Britain produce two genuine contenders for a world title in the same field, but when we do the rivalry is fierce. Think Ovett and Coe. For just over two years now we've been treated to another battle, Jenson Button vs. Lewis Hamilton. Both are fantastic drivers, both are at the same team and both have one world championship title, so why does everyone prefer Jenson?
When Button joined McLaren for the 2010 season everyone expected him to be driving as a number two to Hamilton. Hamilton had only been Formula 1 racing for three years, already had one title to his name and had never been beaten by a team mate in the final championship standings. Fast forward two years and Button has put an end to that statistic but it remains difficult to split the two.
Debate rages about who is the better driver. Many have the opinion that Lewis is the better racer but that Jenson is more reliable. Certainly there have been many examples of Hamilton losing his cool and going for a risky manoeuvre which has cost his team valuable points. But when Lewis gets it right he gets it seriously right, driving with a style which makes you want to jump into your hatchback and race around the suburbs like a raving loon.
Undeniably Jenson gives the impression of a safer bet. On the grid he has the aura of a man about to embark on a ramble to a country pub, not one who's seconds away from accelerating to 200 mph. Having said that Button's performance at the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix was the most exciting drive I've ever witnessed. In torrential rain, pit-stopping six times and colliding with another car twice, Jenson came from last position on lap 40 to win. Boring and run of the mill, it was not.
So with the driving credentials even it comes down to personality. The winner in this category is unquestionably Button. Maybe I'm being unfair on a young man who's trying to fight to the top of his profession whilst surrounded by media frenzy, but Hamilton just comes across as an arrogant upstart who takes himself far too seriously.
Button's personality is similar to his driving style, calm, collected and at peace with himself. All in all Jenson simply comes across as a genuinely nice guy who you could happily share a pint with. He always has time for interviews and always gives a fair, honest opinion.
Lewis is unpredictable. If something niggles at him during a race he can storm around the pits like a spoilt ten year old whose brother has just been given a bigger slice of cake. However on other days he can also be as placid and reasonable as his teammate.
The drivers' personal lives (what we see of them anyway) are also very different and reflect badly on Hamilton. Both men are attached to attractive ladies but that's where the similarity ends. Jenson and the little known Jessica Michibata happily go about their relationship in relative quiet. Jessica is always seen breathlessly cheering on her man from the sidelines and one can't help but smile when they embrace at the end of a successful race.
Lewis on the other hand has just recently rekindled his romance with the 'slightly' higher profile Nicole Scherzinger. For some reason, and maybe it's just the cynic in me, she only ever appears to be seen at a Grand Prix, to be seen at a Grand Prix. Maybe she just finds motor racing incredibly boring, and heaven knows there are many who share that opinion, but come on, smile once in a while! You're meant to be media savvy! The inexplicable sacking of his father as his manager in 2010 has also added to Lewis' P.R. woes. The whole affair stank of a fame hungry boy who's grown too big for his driver's boots. Not a good way to win fans.
So the answer to my question seems an obvious one. Why does Britain cheer on Button instead of Hamilton? Because he's a nice guy, and I've seen enough Hugh Grant films to know that that is all that matters.