Debate: Is it all over for Button?

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Jenson Button, Honda, Hungaroring, 2007 | Hondaracingf1.comNigel Mansell has criticised fellow Briton Jenson Button, saying he’s wasted his F1 opportunity:

Jenson should have won more races, he has under-performed and that is down to him. He had the opportunity and he didn’t take it – there won’t be any more.

Do you agree with the 1992 world champion? Or are Button’s problems all the making of his un-competitive Honda?

Button’s boss Nick Fry jumped to Button’s defence against Mansell’s claim that, “He’s got a great reputation for partying and that’s taken the edge off it. He’s a typical example of too much, too soon.”

Fry said:

I would refute everything Nigel has said, and particularly I think his comments about Jenson’s reputation for partying are about five years out of date.

People forget that Jenson made his F1 debut at the age of 20 – but he’s now 27. I’ve worked with him now for five years, and his increasing maturing and the way he changed his lifestyle is extremely noticeable.

Button made his F1 debut for Williams in 2000 and became the sport’s youngest ever points scorer in his second Grand Prix (a record that was broken this year by Sebastian Vettel).

A dismal season with Benetton followed in 2001 but he made progress in 2002 as the team morphed into Renault. He moved to BAR for 2003 and had his most competitive season ever in 2004, with plenty of podiums but still no win.

Since then BAR’s (now Honda’s) form has fluctuated greatly – but when the cards fell his way at the Hungaroring last year he seized his first ever win from 14th on the grid. This year has been a write-off as Button has been lumbered with a pitifully slow car.

How much is he to blame for his lack of success? Is Mansell’s picture of Button as a past-it party animal with no appetite for success accurate?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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15 comments on “Debate: Is it all over for Button?”

  1. I think it’s difficult to blame Jenson for Honda’s form but I do think that, outwardly at least, Rubens is coming across better than Button is in coping with 2007. For example, an interview in F1 Racing at the season opener had Button making some pretty disparaging comments about the team and how he might break yet another contract.

    I don’t doubt that Jenson’s a talented driver but he’s tainted his own value by going mad when he first got into F1 (buying a Ferrari with his first cheque from Frank Williams), being seen to be partying a lot and leaving / joining teams against contract ties.

    Apart from the Button image, would you sign him up if you were a team boss??

  2. Nathan Jones
    9th August 2007, 8:23

    who else would sign him? he only goes back on it a week later!

  3. I don’t know if he has changed his ways since the partying days – he couldn’t really win there though, as the press were wanting a James Hunt type personality who did what he wanted, when he wanted and I think Jenson was perhaps looking to immitate this.

    The big difference was that Hunt managed all that and to drive well and win at the same time, which Button didn’t manage with any success (apart from one very lucky win in the wet).

    The contract messes he has gotten himself into haven’t endeared him to many, within the sport and outside it – and he only has himself (and his advisors) to blame for that.

    It would be easy to blame the car for his disappointments ontrack, but there were times that the car looked good enough to win but he didn’t for whatever reason.

    I’d say he was simply a good driver, but not as good as the pre-career hype. A common occurrence with sportspeople hyped to the max in the British press unfortunately.

  4. With the greatest respect to Nigel Mansell, I believe he is wrong about Jenson Button. It is correct that in he’s done himself no favours like the Little Missy yacht and being outperformed by Giancarlo Fisichella.

    However, it’s besides the point to keep mentioning those mistakes when Button has learnt from them and there are performances which truly indicate his talent. For example, Hockenheim in 2004 where he came second from thirteenth while his helmet was loose and outqualifying Michael Schumacher at Spa in 2000.

    Eddie Irvine and Jacques Villeneuve have stated Button’s game is up before and he proved them wrong. I’m confident he will with Mansell. True, he hasn’t got as long a future as Hamilton has, but he’s still only 27; the age Mansell made his debut at Austria in 1980!

  5. I think it may well be all over for Button – but that’s largely because the Honda people have forgotten how to organise a racing effort. Jenson has had very few plausible opportunities to win. Given the method Honda appear to have chosen to tackle the problem (hiring Williams rejects), there are not likely to be many more coming Jenson’s way through team merit.

    My only complaint would be that he needs to have a well-sorted car before he can use the sharpest edge of his talent. Some drivers are good at fighting with mediocre machinery, but Jenson is, well, mediocre. This is not good for dragging recalcitrant Hondas into winning positions.

    He really needs David Richards to give his race entry to someone else and retake Honda’s lead role. That, however, is very unlikely to happen, and Jenson’s cast-iron contract prevents him from going elsewhere. As a result, I expect Jenson to become one of the “might have beens”, and be pretty much powerless to stop it. Fry has a point – but so does Mansell.

  6. The only time Button had a good car, was 2004 BAR. Unfortunatelly that was also a year of dominant Ferrari … So I am not that sure what opportinity Mansell had in mind.

    As for the future, an odd race win here and there may be possible … But unless Honda builds a winner of a car, he does not stand much chance of winning any titles … I do not see McLaren, Ferrari, BMW or Renault hiring him, and looks to me that the champions in near future will come from these teams only … Move to other teams would not make much sense.

  7. Its all over for many, primarily those not in a good car. This includes Sebastian Bourdais, Mark Webber, Button, Barrichelo, and Fisico.


  8. Among the washed up are Mark Webber, Jarno Truli, Rubens, Fisico, and Ralf Schumacher. Really anyone who isn’t in a dominant car within 2 years of entering the sport is washed up.


  9. I agree with Simon Stiel that Jenson has, (on a number of occasions) produced some really racy performances that prove he is upper echalon in the F1 driver market. Let us not forget that as recently as a month ago he went from 17th to 4th in two laps at the Nurburgring! He was mighty in 2004 against the Ferrari enslaught and would no doubt be a mighty performer again if placed in a top car.

  10. Can’t say anything bad about Jenson since he was kind enough to stop his car and sign autographs for myself and a few others before leaving the paddock @ Indianapolis a few months ago.

  11. At least Jenson’s a nice bloke. Unfortunately, niceness alone won’t turn that Honda into a winner. Otherwise, between Jenson, Rubens Barrichello and Nick Fry, they’d already be a permanent fixture in the top 10 of qualifying.

  12. Sadly I believe that Jenson although still young in F1 terms has been let down by Honda big time. Jenson must move to a more competitive team at the end of 2007 (The question is where to. The top teams are pretty much signed up)I have to agree with Sean perhaps a bit late but if he is not signed by a top team within the next season I believe his F1 career is done.

  13. Jenson Button can be a good driver, he never puts a wheel off,
    he’s generally less flamboyant than some on the grid, but until Honda wash that dirt and weeds display off their cars ……
    Jenson’s got his hands full making that stone roll.
    To answer Cooperman and Nathan Jones…….I’d hire him in a flash !!!

  14. Presumably Honda are in F1 for the advertising of the products they sell to the public. At the moment they are simply embarracing themselves as evidenced by the sponsoring sequences on ITV F1 broadcasts – lawnmower racing, boats, women drivers etc. Jensen and Rubins have shown themselves to be as fast as anybody. (Rubins was as fast as Schmacher, when he was allowed to be by Ferrai!) When Honda decide that they really do want to win in F1 and need to put the resources into their F1 team, then Jensen and Rubins will win. Other wise they would be better off out of it. It is as simple as that.

  15. Maybe not.

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