When Jenson Button won his maiden Grand Prix victory in Hungary, there was talk in the media of him getting “the monkey off his back”. As monkeys go, it must have been about the size of King Kong’s dad – and ironically it was largely placed there by the media and press themselves.

I don’t think I know of any other British F1 driver who has had to endure the constant pressuring and prodding Button has received over the past seasons. Not Hill, not Mansell, not Hunt… Nobody.

The press have undoubtedly become more hyperactive, cynical and bruising in their treatment of sports stars and celebs over recent years, and it must surely be unenviable to not only have to excel in what you do but also traipsy through the minefields of the British media’s ever more spiteful ‘Build em up, Knock em down’ mentality every day of your life.

Button has so far managed remarkably well (a couple of self-induced PR disasters aside); and you can only hope that his first GP win isn’t a cue for them to pile on more pressure.*

I used to think Button was little more than an ego in overalls (and there’s nothing wrong with ego in itself – obviously you need it in spades in this sport). But I’ve softened. Over the past year or so I’ve warmed to him and even felt quite sorry for the coverage he gets.

When I say ‘coverage’ I include ‘favourable’ coverage. So complete is ITV’s craven love-in with him in its F1 programming that a number of my friends actually refer to it as the Jenson Button Show. And that’s a great shame as it alienates people who would like to like him.

Race after race, coverage on telly and in the papers revolves around him while the title battle lies elsewhere: it’s as if there’s some appalling fascination with building him up every fortnight just to beat themselves up when it all goes skew-wiff; Hungary being a very welcome change.

At some point you can imagine that Jenson courted the media to raise his profile and PR. And probably rightly so: Anthony Davidson might well have a race seat by now if he were a better media whore and PR nut.

The problem with attracting all this attention though is these things always turn out very Faustian. The press don’t court him because they love him, they do it because he’s useful to them.

He’ll be equally useful as a hate object when they tire of him too. Hopefully Jenson and his advisers are now skilled and mature enough to rise above all that nonsense as they shift from ‘he’ll never win’ to ‘one win wonder’ to ‘F1’s great briton’ to ‘F1’s brit has-been’.
As they surely will.

(*Footnote: True to form, ITV’s Turkish GP coverage lurched onto the screen with a huge great Jensonvision tribute that lasted the best part of twenty minutes. Way to go guys!)