Jenson Button – McLaren Love at First Sight

2014 Formula One Austrian Grand Prix, Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria, 19th – 22nd June 2014.
Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-29 Mercedes, Action,
World Copyright: © Andrew Hone Photographer 2014.
Ref: _ONZ0573

Jenson Button is a driver who had the chance and the opportunity to race for several teams. He made his Formula 1 debut with Williams in 2000 and he became the youngest British driver ever to start a Formula 1 race in Australia, he was 20 years old. The following year, Jenson moved to Benetton, but he didn’t stay for a long time. In 2002, Benetton became Renault and Jenson remained and raced with Jarno Trulli.

 

The British were replaced by Fernando Alonso in Renault, hence he was looking for a new team. In 2003, he signed a two years contract with BAR (British American Racing). Button’s new team-mate was Villeneuve. Jenson took his first podium in 2004 in Malaysian Grand Prix. In October 2006, Honda bought the remaining 55 percent of BAR and the team was renamed to Honda. Button stayed in Honda for two years and in 2009 Brawn acquired the Japanese team and signed a deal with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello who was Jenson’s teammate. It was the year, where Button won his one and only championship. At that season he won six of the seventeen races.

The following season, the Brit had to find a new team, as Brawn was bought from Mercedes. McLaren offered a three years deal to Jenson Button. Many didn’t agree with Jenson’s move, but I believe that Jenson found what he truly wanted. A team which will be surrounded by experienced staff and a team where he could be loyal. Button is still racing for McLaren, he moved there for three years, but he remained for seven years (he won’t be racing for McLaren next season).

During his years in McLaren, he had good and bad moments. Jenson’s debut was not very impressive, the British Champion finished seventh in Bahrain, but he won the second grand Prix of the season, which took place in Australia. At that season, Button finished 5th and he scored 214 podiums. He finished seven times on the podium and won two Grand Prix (Australia and China).

The following season it was Button’s second year in McLaren, Jenson won three races and finished second in the championship standings, behind Sebastian Vettel. It was Button’s best season with McLaren. The Brit celebrated a victory in Canada which was called as the best victory of his career. At the same season, he won two more races in Hungary and in Japan. Jenson scored 270 points for McLaren and finished 12 times on the podium.

In 2012, Jenson had a good season, but he finished fifth in the drivers’ standings just two points behind his team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Button secured three victories for McLaren in 2012, in Australia, Belgium, and Brazil.

The next year was not positive for Button’s career. He managed to score just 73 points and his best position was in Brazil, where he finished fourth. In March of that season, Jenson announced that he wanted to remain in McLaren until his retirement. In 2014, Button had a new team-mate, Kevin Magnussen who replaced Sergio Perez and raced for McLaren. At the season premiere in Australia, Jenson finished fourth, Daniel Ricciardo, who finished second in the same race, disqualified. Hence, Jenson promoted to the third place. It was a poor season for the Brit champion. He finished eighth and collected 126 points.

In 2015, Jenson decided to renew his contract with McLaren. Fernando Alonso had also signed a contract with the British team and became Button’s new team-mate. Furthermore, McLaren had a new partner. Honda returned to Formula 1 as an engine supplier.

It was a very difficult season for McLaren-Honda because the new engine was unreliable. In 2015, Button finished 16th and collected just 16 points.

This season, McLaren-Honda has done huge steps forward and that is obvious from their results so far. Jenson is currently 15th and has scored 19 points with four races to go. McLaren announced that Jenson won’t race with them in 2017.

I believe, that Button found his paradise in McLaren. He looks very relaxed during the races and he is enjoying every moment. Despite the difficulties that McLaren had and still has he is trying to help and gives advice to his team. His experience is very helpful for McLaren-Honda and helped them to improve the performance of the car. Jenson has the option to return to McLaren as a race driver in 2018 and I hope that he will race for at least one more year.

Victor Archakis F1 Editor

Follow me on Twitter: @FP_Passion

(Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)

2011 Canadian GP: Jenson’s Finest, My First

As journalists, we’re not supposed to have favourite teams or drivers – and if we do, we’re certainly not meant to very open about it. But I challenge anyone to have their introduction to Formula One at the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, and not emerge with a considerable soft spot for Jenson Button.

Growing up in Somerset in the early 2000s, it was impossible not to have at least some awareness of who Jenson Button was. His success and charm had long earned him a place alongside the likes of Michael Eavis and Banksy in modern West Country folklore. But beyond the local pride, I didn’t know much about Jenson then – for whatever reason, my parents’ passing interest in F1 had not managed to impress itself on me, and so I was wholly ignorant of his stellar debut at Williams, his first win in Hungary, or his fairytale 2009 championship.

But all that changed on 12th June, 2011. My sister, an ardent Red Bull Racing fan, had come home from university that weekend to watch a certain Canadian Grand Prix, and in the spirit of family togetherness I sat down to join her. I had no idea I was about to watch the longest and one of the greatest races in F1 history, nor could I have guessed the impact that afternoon was to have on my life since then. All I wanted was a good show.

2011 Canadian Grand Prix – Sunday
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada
12th June 2011
Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-26 Mercedes.
World Copyright:Steve Etherington/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image SNE21284

For all that was to come, Button’s 2011 Canadian Grand Prix got off to a terrible start. Unable to challenge the Red Bulls and Ferraris in qualifying, he lined up only seventh on the grid; then, after losing several places on the rain-soaked opening laps, almost saw his race end in a cloud of carbon fibre as a misjudged move by Hamilton on lap eight ended in the two McLarens colliding on the pit straight.

Button luckily came out unscathed, but the incident turned out to just be the beginning of his troubles. As the safety car was deployed, McLaren called Button into the pits to try a set of intermediates, but his chances of making the alternative strategy work were seemingly scuppered when he was given a drive-through penalty for speeding behind the safety car.

Rejoining the track down in fifteenth, Button then found himself on the wrong tyres as a rain storm descended on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, forcing him and the other inter-shod drivers back to the pits for more full wets. Then to make matters worse, after losing several places with his third trip through the pitlane Button was unable to use the better grip of his wet tyres to recover when the torrential rain triggered first another safety car, then a full race suspension on lap 25.

2011 Canadian Grand Prix – Sunday
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada
12th June 2011
A busy grid in the poring rain
World Copyright:Steven Tee/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _A8C3676

As the red flags came out, and as the horrendous weather made a restart look increasingly unlikely, it’s not hard to imagine Button hoping that that would be it for the day. For myself at home, I was thoroughly enjoying my first incident-packed experience of Formula One; but for Button, the first half of the Canadian Grand Prix had been an utterly dismal affair – his only consolation was that with a flurry of late stops for wet tyres mixing up the field, Button had managed to find himself in tenth place when the race was neutralised, just three places behind his original starting spot.

When the race finally did resume some two hours later, things picked up where they left off for Jenson – with another trip to the pits on lap 36 as the track dried out enough for intermediates again. But that fourth stop was far from his last, as a move on Alonso for tenth place ended in contact, beaching the Ferrari at Turn 3, puncturing Button’s right front tyre, and beginning the fifth safety car period of the day.

Had the race ended then, I might have been forgiven for not thinking much of Jenson’s performance. But as he left the pits for the fifth time and rejoined at the very back of the field, something seemed to change in the cockpit of that McLaren – with fresh tyres and in the changeable conditions he so loves, Button’s race came alive, and in less than ten laps after the safety period ended, he had already managed to slice back through the field to tenth.

From then on, Button simply could not be stopped. As his rivals struggled to manage slicks on a still-drying track, Button kept cool and sailed past them all in turn, and with fifteen laps to go was running fourth – and much faster than race leader Vettel.

A sixth and final safety car on lap 57, deployed after Heidfeld hit the back of Kobayashi through Turn 2, brought Button right up to the back of the leaders. He then exploited the neutralisation to perfection, passing both Webber and Schumacher shortly after the restart to give himself five laps in which to reel in Sebastian Vettel.

What followed next has since become F1 legend. Having led every lap so far, Vettel continued to keep Button just outside the DRS range and looked set to cling on until the flag; but with the McLaren punching out fastest lap after fastest lap behind him the pressure finally became too much, and halfway through the final lap, Vettel ran wide and let Button through for the win.

2011 Canadian Grand Prix – Sunday
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada
12th June 2011
Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-26 Mercedes.
World Copyright:Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _G7C4663

In my years of watching Formula One since, it’s hard to recall a battle for the lead in which I’ve felt so personally invested as Button’s unbelievable pursuit of Vettel. Perhaps it was just plain old sibling rivalry: as my sister’s favoured Vettel clung to an ever-decreasing lead, it’s only natural I should cheer on the man hunting him down.

But to leave it at that would be to do a gross disservice to Jenson Button. Put in its simplest terms, his drive to the victory in Montreal that day was nothing less than that of a true champion. From the back of the grid to the top of the podium is a phenomenal achievement under any circumstances, but Jenson’s win was made all the more outstanding by the constant adversity, the perilous conditions, and the supreme class of the field he had had to overcome along the way. Watching him command his way to the result he knew he deserved was like watching something elemental, determination incarnate.

Very few drivers would have had either the talent or the heart to do what he did in Montreal on 12th June, 2011 – for Jenson Button was, on that day at least, the very best there was.

James Matthews

2011 Canadian Grand Prix – Sunday
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada
12th June 2011
Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-26 Mercedes.
World Copyright:Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image GU5G7063

An Ode To Jenson Button: Thanks For The Memories

Next year marks my 15th year in being a Formula One fan, and while usually that’d be reason to celebrate, it will be a horribly bittersweet year for myself.

It will be the first year in my life that my favourite driver won’t be on the grid, the first year I’ll have no one I look for first on a results screen, the first year I’ll be nothing more than a neutral. 2017 sees McLaren promote young Stoffel Vandoorne in place of the ever popular Jenson Button, and having followed his career with a keen eye for all these years, it’ll be a weird feeling watching the first race in Melbourne next season without Frome’s finest on the grid.

Way back in 2002 JB was driving for the Renault team, before it’s rise to success, he was in his third season and was partnered by Jarno Trulli. While I enjoyed watching Michael Schumacher race, he was barely on the TV screens, only at the end when he took the chequered flag. The F2002 was an incredible piece of machinery, and he walked to the title that season.

With this in mind, I looked for British drivers to support, David Coulthard was thriving at McLaren as he had for six or seven years before. Eddie Irvine was in his swansong year in the sport with Jaguar. Alan McNish was driving for the new Toyota team, and Jenson was at Renault. Something drew me to Jenson, his driving style was smooth and he was young, and full of raw passion.

So from then on in I followed Jenson, and while 2002 and 2003 were somewhat mediocre, 2004 was a year I never saw coming as a Jenson fan.

Having moved to BAR in 2003, I followed but was starting to get frustrated by how many disappointing results he was having. His horror crash at Monaco being a scary moment, having lost it into the Nouvelle Chicane I remember seeing the car and being in shock. ‘How has he walked away from that?’ I remember thinking.

The frustrating thing was something I had to get used to as a Jenson fan, which has made the last six or seven years following him even sweeter, but more on that later.

2004 and Jenson was partnered by Takuma Sato, something of a cult hero in Formula One, and I’m not sure they imagined what was to come. Two podiums in Malaysia and Bahrain for JB before he went to Imola and showed just what he could do.

I’ll never forget being sat in front of the TV as Jenson put in a 1:19:753, over two tenths quicker than Schumacher in the almost bulletproof Ferrari F2004. I was jumping up and down, my first truly proud moment as an F1 fan. Unfortunately he couldn’t go on to win as the mercurial Schumacher took the win. However Sato retired from the race with an engine failure six laps from the end, and it was panic time as JB was nervously bringing the car home hoping to avoid the

same fate. He brought it home in second place, and his best result in Formula One to that date.

Ten podiums that year including second at Imola, Monaco, Hockenheim and China secured him third in the drivers standings that year, behind Schumacher and future team mate Rubens Barrichello in the Ferrari’s.

I was only a young kid at this time so I really wasn’t too interested in what happened off the track. As a kid of nine years old I just wanted to tune in as the parade lap started and watch a load of cars go as fast as they could. So all the politics and comments made off track went over my head. Having looked back at what people said about Jenson and his ‘playboy’ era as it’s become known, it’s all rather harsh.

He was a guy in his twenties who was risking his life week in week out, if he wanted to buy an apartment in Monaco and a Bugatti Veyron so what? You have to ponder if DC did the same thing would it be acting like a ‘playboy?’

But I was unaware of these comments and just enjoyed Jenson’s race craft. He was fantastic, especially in the rain, as we found out in 2006. The Hungarian Grand Prix is etched in my mind as one of my all time favourite races, we all know why.

JB qualified 14th, giving me no hope or expectation of what was to happen. In the changing conditions he made his way up the grid and only went and won it! I remember being beside myself, shouting at my TV and willing him on as he took the chequered flag. A truly magnificent moment for Jenson as he took his maiden win.

It appeared this was a mere flash in the pan though, as 2007 and 2008 saw Honda turn their attention to trying to promote an earth-friendly message, and that rather fetching earth design from 2007, which we no longer speak about. Two drab years for Jenson and it looked to be the end of his career in 2008 when Honda pulled out the sport at the eleventh hour.

I remember thinking it was all over, having just watched Lewis Hamilton take the title in his second year I remember being happy that a Brit had won the title, but upset that it wasn’t Jenson.

However Ross Brawn being the utter legend he is became the hero as he bought out Honda and formed his own team, Brawn GP, and employed Jenson and Rubens Barrichello to drive for him. I was glad he was back in the sport but had no clue as to the amount of success they’d have.

Five wins in the first six races, as well as a win at Monaco saw Jenson race into a lead at the top of the drivers standings. I was confident this was his year at last. After a stuttering European season in which he picked up points but not as many wins, it all came to Brazil, Jenson could seal the title with a decent result.

I was on the edge of my seat from the parade lap onwards, JB was down in 14th, again, and title rival Barrichello was on pole. In another scenario I’d have loved Rubens to win the title, but I’d been following Jenson for too long to see him lose it now.

Some great racing from the Brawn team mates saw Jenson in fifth coming towards the end of the race. All these years I’d watched him race, retire, not have the car to give him results, and now here he was about to win the title.

He crossed the line and it was great seeing him celebrate, his rendition of We Are The Champions was something else. Celebrating with his dad and finally being World Champion, it had been quite a journey from Australia 2002 to here.

A move to McLaren followed and I thought this’d be an ideal place for title number two, however it just never materialised for him. This move of course co-incided with the rise of Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel, and so JB just couldn’t get near the top, but he got one over on the young German on one torrential day in Montreal…

Canada 2011 was just, chaos. There’s no other words for it, and I’m going to try and condense JB’s race as much as I can. (takes breath)

JB started seventh, hit team mate Lewis Hamilton and the pitwall and brought out the safety car. He then received a drive through penalty for speeding under said safety car, coming out in 15th. The race was suspended on lap 26 due to immense rain.

Two hours passed, race gets back underway. Shortly after Button and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso collided at turn three, putting Alonso out and giving JB a puncture, he came out in 21st and last place. However in six laps he jumped up to 14th. A steady rise up the grid saw him in fourth as the race entered its final stages. He caught and overtook Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher and was second coming into the final lap.

Vettel went wide at turn six and almost span it in the changing conditions, handing victory to Jenson Button. What a race that was. I wasn’t sure if I actually saw what I saw, it was just one of those races you need to watch as an F1 fan.

After 2011 Jenson’s career never really hit the same heights, and after getting his and McLaren’s last win in Brazil 2012, he and McLaren have slowly dropped in to the midfield.

While this is unfortunate, it’s somewhat a good thing. As this means we’ve been able to back Jenson even longer, as had he won another title he’d have probably retired on his own accord, gone out with a bang so to speak.

So when it was announced that Stoffel will replace Jenson for 2017 I was sad to see him go, but knew it was inevitable and had come to peace with it a few months ago.

All I will say is Jenson Button has been a privilege to watch these last 14 seasons and I’m glad I grew up in an era where I got to watch him and will him on every race. He’ll always be my favourite driver, but now I’ll have to just simply enjoy the sport, not enjoying the heartache, joy, delirium these last few seasons have given me.

Thank you Jenson, from a young fan who’s had years of fun watching you race, and congratulations on a unique and stellar career.

Aaron Irwin

2009: Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last.

If there was one year that confounded critics, fans and even a few drivers alike, 2009 was that season.

For that was the year in which Brawn GP and Jenson Button achieved something that will never be repeated again in Formula One, as they became the last privateer entry to win both the World Drivers’ and World Constructors’ Championship, and probably the last ever team to do that.

The story begins in December 2008 when Honda, after three dismal years in Formula One, pulled out of the sport with immediate effect and left two of the most experienced drivers in Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello potentially on the F1 scrapheap.

That was until March, just days before the new season was about to begin, when ex-team principal Ross Brawn announced a deal to take over the fallen team had been completed. Brawn then took part in pre-season testing and Button and Barrichello suddenly had another chance.

Many were surprised despite their strong pre-season pace at just how quick Brawn were at the Australian Grand Prix, with Button and Barrichello dominating the weekend. Button would go on to win the race and start a streak that would prove pivotal as the season wore on, while Barrichello’s second meant Brawn took a 1-2 on their Grand Prix debut.

Button won again in Malaysia, which was stopped after 31 laps due to appalling weather conditions and thus half points were awarded, before a third place in China that was to be his worst result in the opening seven races.

Button’s early-season juggernaut was to roll on into Bahrain while in Spain and Monaco he headed two more Brawn 1-2s. After his sixth win in seven races at the Turkish Grand Prix in ultimately his last victory of 2009, Jenson was 26 points clear of Barrichello in second, and 32 clear of Sebastian Vettel.

At the British Grand Prix he was sixth with this result followed up with a fifth place in Germany, where Mark Webber took his first ever win, before two seventh places in Hungary and at the European Grand Prix in Valencia before his first lap retirement in Belgium following a collision with Romain Grosjean, after he qualified down in 14th.

After Belgium, Button’s lead at the top of the standings had been cut to 16 points over Barrichello, while Vettel was a further three points back going into the Italian Grand Prix. A return to form at Monza was enough for second place, though Barrichello cut further into Button’s lead with a victory that left him 14 points behind with 40 to race for.

In Singapore, he was fifth while Vettel was only a place ahead and Barrichello sixth. At the Japanese Grand Prix Barrichello and Button finished seventh and eighth respectively to leave Brawn half a point away from an unlikely Constructors’ Championship.

Barrichello was 14 points back with two races left with Vettel a further two behind and the World Championship could be wrapped up at the next race in Brazil.

The Brazilian Grand Prix was a weekend that seemed to encapsulate Button’s career and his journey in F1 from his debut season in 2000.

Button qualified 14th in a rain-interrupted session that ended up at 2 hours 41 minutes being the longest in Formula One history, while Barrichello took pole position at his home race. His other rival, Vettel, was 16th having also been caught out.

By the end of the first lap due to various incidents, Button had climbed five positions to ninth and this quickly became seventh as Grosjean and Nakajima were dispatched in short order, while debutant Kamui Kobayashi’s Toyota took more persuading.

He eventually got the pass done with a bold move down the inside at turn one, a manoeuvre made famous by a small kick of oversteer to keep the Japanese charger at bay.

Barrichello’s annual dose of bad luck at Interlagos was to strike again as the Brazilian suffered a puncture that relegated him to eighth and put Button in a now crucial fifth place, and the title was now his if the result stayed as it was.

Button was to finish fifth to wrap up the most unlikely of World Drivers’ Championships with a race to spare. His rendition of Queen’s “We are the Champions” remains famous to this day.

The Brit’s season was rounded off with a third place in Abu Dhabi and the eventual margin at the top of the standings was 11 points to Vettel.

The 2009 F1 World Championship was a season of the underdog and Formula One simply will not see another story like this again.

Button’s World Championship win, his sole title in a glittering 17-season career remains the example to many Formula One drivers about perseverance, with many having written him off in seasons past following an awful 2007-08 with Honda.

But the biggest compliment to Jenson Button?

You will have to go to great lengths to find a more popular title winner.

Jack Prentice