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Button: U.S. return is important for F1

From Pedro Pinto and Tom McGowan, CNN
updated 8:59 PM EST, Wed November 14, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jenson Button is looking forward to the first F1 grand prix in the United States since 2007
  • Former world champion tells CNN the race is important for F1's future development
  • Button says he has good relationship with departing teammate Lewis Hamilton
  • Hamilton criticized his fellow Englishman on Twitter earlier this year

(CNN) -- Formula One has yet to win over the United States, but former world champion Jenson Button hopes this weekend's race in Texas will be the start of something big.

The new, purpose-built Circuit of the Americas in Austin will host the first U.S. Grand Prix since 2007 on Sunday -- the penultimate race of the season, and crucial in the drivers' title fight between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

"Racing in Austin is one of the most exciting grands prix," Button told CNN. "It's a purpose-built circuit for Formula One ... it's very important for us to make this work in the States.

"Five years ago we raced, it wasn't the best race but it was on a circuit which wasn't built for Formula One cars, but for IndyCar and NASCAR.

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"This was built for Formula One. We're hoping it works. Looking at the layout of the circuit and driving it in the simulator, it's pretty cool. There are lots of corners, heavy breaking, long straights for overtaking. So I've got a feeling it's going to be a good weekend."

Read: Was the 2005 U.S. GP the strangest race in F1 history?

While F1 has spread around the world to new markets, it has struggled to touch the heartland of U.S. motorsport's fanbase, which favors open-wheel racing -- generally seen as more accessible for fans and competitors alike.

"Racing here, racing in Austin, a very young, vibrant city, we're hopefully going to get a lot of the youngsters interested in the sport," Button said.

"Not just as spectators, but actually wanting to be involved in the sport in the future."

Button's future in F1 is tied with McLaren for next season, but he will have a new teammate following Lewis Hamilton's decision to join rivals Mercedes.

When Button joined McLaren in 2010 as a newly-crowned world champion, it was hoped he could form an all-British dream partnership with his compatriot.

But after three seasons as teammates neither driver has managed to win the title, and a Twitter row erupted in the aftermath of 2008 champion Hamilton's announcement he will move to the German outfit in 2013.

Read: Whitmarsh - 'Hamilton's move money motivated'

Hamilton will end a career-long association with McLaren after the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix next weekend, but Button insists the pair still enjoy an amicable professional relationship.

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"We have a very good working relationship," Button said.

"We're competitive, as we should be -- you want to beat everyone and that includes your teammate.

"He's extremely fast, he's an extremely talented driver so it makes my life difficult. But I like that, I like that challenge. When we're working together, we share every bit of information, as we should."

Hamilton, who sits fifth in the drivers' standings 12 points and one place above Button, accused his colleague of "unfollowing" him -- unsubscribing to his tweets -- on Twitter after October's Japanese Grand Prix.

"Just noticed @jensonbutton unfollowed, thats a shame. After 3 years as teammates, I thought we respected one another but clearly he doesn't," Hamilton said via his official Twitter account, which has over one million followers.

However, Hamilton, who made his F1 debut with McLaren in 2007, later apologized for the outburst, tweeting: "My bad, just found out Jenson never followed me. Don't blame him! Need to be on Twitter more!"

Read: F1 star Perez gives Mexicans hope

Button's new teammate will be young Mexican Sergio Perez, who has made his name in an impressive second season at Sauber.

"He's obviously an exciting talent," added Button. "He's willing to learn, he seems intelligent, those are the three ingredients you need as a racing driver.

The US Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2005 was won by Michael Schumacher. But the race is remembered less for his victory, than the number of starters -- just six cars, rather than the normal 20.<br/><br/> The US Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2005 was won by Michael Schumacher. But the race is remembered less for his victory, than the number of starters -- just six cars, rather than the normal 20.

Schumacher wins race of six
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Australian Grand Prix: March 18, Melbourne<br/><br/>2012 champion: Jenson Button, McLaren Australian Grand Prix: March 18, Melbourne

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"He's only 22, which is quite scary. He's 10 years younger than me which makes me feel very old! I'm looking forward to the partnership. It's a fresh start and it's exciting."

Button has won two races this season, in Australia and Belgium, and finished on the podium another three times.

However, last season's runner-up has been frustrated by his inability to challenge both Red Bull's current leader and two-time defending champion Vettel, and Ferrari's Alonso -- who, like the German, is seeking a third world title.

"It's been a tough year," Button said. "You've got to love the wins. The two wins for me were pretty special, but I've also had some pretty bad races.

"I sorted those issues out, but I'd lost so much ground by then it's difficult to fight for the championship. The last few races have been fun, I've really enjoyed it.

"There's been a massive amount of competition between the top four or five teams so the sport's in a great place. It is the best the sport has been for many years, so it's the best time to come back to America and see if it works.

"The racing is great, we've got a lot of top drivers, a lot of top teams, great partners and sponsors involved -- it should work."

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