“Lining up 14th in mixed conditions, you’re like: ‘Well, let’s see what happens!’,” he says. “Getting through Turn One is your first challenge.
“I had a really bad start – went backwards rather than forwards! But once we got through the first corner, it was just about getting into a rhythm.
“I knew the car was going to work well in those conditions, but I wasn’t quite sure it was going to be that good! It was real fun.”
Whilst Räikkönen converted pole into the lead, championship leader Fernando Alonso rocketed from 15th sixth at the end of lap one, whilst Michael Schumacher came from 12th to fourth. Button made up for his inauspicious to find himself up to 11th at the end of first tour.
Jenson soon started making his way through the field, overtaking at almost one car a lap. Whilst his progress might not have been as meteoric as Schumacher’s and Alonso’s, the Honda driver was smoothly and methodically climbing the field in the style he’s famous for.
“Obviously the Michelin tyres that we were using were stronger in the wet conditions than the Bridgestones on the Ferraris,” Button comments on some of his wet weather advantage.
“It definitely made it easier that it was wet, as you can take advantage of mistakes, whilst you’re also always searching for grip – and you can play strategy.”
Button and his team would bring the race to them though well considered decisions, but first Button had to negotiate a seven-time world champion in the form of Schumacher.
“When came out of the move on Schumacher, I was just laughing in my helmet” Button
After having gradually made his way up the field, Button was now fifth behind the Ferrari. It was a challenge he relished, and still remembers fondly.
“It always has to be Schumacher,” he says when asked to pick his best favourite overtake that day. “When I watched Formula 1 in the early 90s, to see him as a young kid, fighting as the best in the world – then, six or seven years later – I’m racing him!
“At my first ever grand prix, I drove out of the pits and I was behind Michael. It just blew me away. Any time I could go wheel to wheel with him, it made my race. It was so special to race with someone of his calibre, and he was the one I looked up to in terms of getting the best out of myself.”
Button managed to put all thoughts of adulation out of his head though as got alongside Schumacher down the start-finish straight at the start of lap six, taking the inside line into the first turn. It required full commitment, a lot of nerve, and a deft touch to make sure the two didn’t tangle on a deceptive surface.
“The move on Michael into Turn One, where there were millimetres between his front wing and my rear tyre, that for me was my move of the race. I had to get that move done,” he says.