Jenson Button has claimed he will quit Formula One if team orders are reintroduced.
Sunday’s controversy in the German Grand Prix, in which Felipe Massa was forced to give up the victory in favour of Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso, has blown F1 apart over the past few days.
Opinions are divided on whether the rule, introduced after the tumult that followed the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix — when Rubens Barrichello allowed Michael Schumacher past on the final corner for the German to claim the win — should return.
Earlier this week, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone played on the team element of the sport and insisted team principals should be allowed to make the decisions.
But the likes of Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes the sport is far healthier if drivers are allowed to compete and race against one another.
That is the kind of F1 McLaren driver Button wants to be involved with: not the shams that unfolded in Austria and Germany, enraging fans who felt cheated.
The world champion said: “I wouldn’t be interested in racing in F1 if, from the first race, you know
there was the possibility of being a number one or number two driver. What’s the point?”
He added: “You’re here to win, to be the best, and you should have equal opportunity to the next guy that’s driving the same car, otherwise it’s not a drivers’ sport any more. It would be a complete and utter team sport.”
Button said: “One of the biggest buzzes in F1 is fighting your team-mate, and for me, fighting a world champion (Lewis Hamilton) is such a buzz.
“If I suddenly realised he didn’t have the same equipment as me, or I was being favoured, then I wouldn’t be happy about that because I would think we’d all been cheated.”
Button appreciates a team that has a policy of playing fair can lose out, as McLaren did in 2007 when Hamilton and Alonso missed out on the championship by a point to Kimi Raikkonen.
The 30-year-old said: “Sometimes it can hurt you having two drivers who are fighting for a championship. But also it can help because you are pushing each other very hard and developing the car quicker because you are working together.”
It is important to him to win on merit, he said.
“When you cross the line you want to know you’ve won a race and a championship in the right way. It does mean a lot to you, and I’ve never done it any other way.”
Button has sympathy for Massa, who put his pride and reputation on the line for the sake of the team. The Brazilian has been pilloried in his homeland by outraged fans.
“It's been the most difficult situation for Felipe, who was quick and fighting for a victory,” said Button. “He drove a really good race and showed he is performing very well, so I feel sorry for him.”
Following yesterday’s two practice sessions ahead of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Button was forced to settle for the ninth-best time, over 1.5 seconds adrift of Sebastian Vettel.
Chasing his seventh pole of the season, Vettel was half-a-second quicker than Alonso and Red Bull team mate Mark Webber, with Massa fourth and Hamilton sixth.