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Button flexes driving muscles

JENSON Button got his Formula One career back on track yesterday when his new Mercedes-powered Brawn GP team began four days of testing at the Spanish Grand Prix circuit.

Apart from a brief shakedown of the new car at Silverstone last Friday, the Briton had not been behind the wheel since November ?? the month before Honda announced that it was pulling out of the sport due to the credit crunch. Honda said last week that it had sold its team to Ross Brawn, the Honda team principal and former Ferrari technical director.

The Japanese manufacturer's British-based team had a miserable season last year, with Button scoring just three points from 18 races.

However, it had been hoping for a big step up in performance this year and Brawn said after Honda announced its departure that the new car was considered a potential race winner. Brawn said on Friday that the team was hoping to make a "respectable" start to the season at the first race in Australia on March 29.

The early signs looked promising, with Button, who has taken a big pay cut to stay in Formula One, top of the timesheets two hours into the test session with 20 laps under his belt.

Button's fastest lap in last year's Spanish Grand Prix was one minute 22.353 seconds and he was already lapping in 1:22.414 in the Brawn yesterday. The team's trucks were lined up in the Circuit de Catalunya paddock with its new name on the side while the car ran without branding in its new black, white and yellow color scheme.

Brawn was also attending the Barcelona test, as was Button's father John. McLaren's partner Mercedes has replaced Honda as the engine provider, with the new V8 unit believed to be providing around 60 hp more than the one used by Button last year.


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