F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer concludes his look at the career of championship leader Jenson Button.
Jenson Button struggled to find some traction for his F1 career at first, being inconsistent in his first few years. But he soon began to show genuine potential, and he made the most of whatever opportunites he had to make a breakthrough.
2004: For the first time, Button had a real front-running car. He finally scored his first podium finish in Malaysia, but was to score many other podiums that season. He also nabbed his first pole position at Imola with a great lap. He converted this pole into a second-placed finish behind Michael Schumacher.
But he didn’t just do well from the front – he also had an epic comeback in Germany, his best drive to date. He fought from 13th on the grid (due to an engine penalty), to finish second. Despite loose helmet straps, he managed to pull off this brilliant pass on Fernando Alonso which took corners to complete.
2005: After the highs of 2004, Button – and the team – came back down to earth with a bump. His podium finish at Imola that year was taken away due to that fuel ballast scandal. The FIA also suspended them for Spain and Monaco.
It wasn’t until Canada that Button really found some good form – and stuck the BAR on pole (although he ended up not finishing the race). On the track, the BAR was solid, if not excellent – he managed this great pass on Schumacher at Germany.
But off the track, Button was stuck in a legal battle – for the second year running. He had tried moving from BAR to Williams in 2004, but the moce was blocked. Now BAR wasn’t able to fulfill their clauses, Williams tried to grab Button, but now he wanted to stay at BAR. Eventually, a substantial sum of money changed hands (enough, it was said, for Williams to fund their Cosworth engine deal for 2006), and Button remained with the Brackley squad.
2006: One reason Jenson may have wanted to stay was Honda’s takeover of BAR. Now the team had increased funding and support, he was hopeful of better results. Initially, you wouldn’t be so sure – his Honda engine blew up within sight of the finishing line in the Australian Grand Prix. They made him pull over to avoid an engine penalty for San Marino, but a podium there was thrown away with a botched pitstop.
But all the pain that year was worth it – he finally scored his first win in Hungary. Who could forget James Allen’s commentary as Button crossed the line to seal that long-awaited win?
2007: Sadly, that first win was a false dawn – Honda’s ‘Earthdreams’ car of 2007 was a total disaster. The RA107 was nowhere near the pace and Button never contended for a podium all year, never mind a win.
He had to settle for racing in the midfield – here’s his battle with Nico Rosberg at Monza.
2008: More misery for Button – another uncompetitive Honda, and he was beaten by team mate Rubens Barrichello (who scored a podium at Silverstone). About the only bright spot that year was Honda’s recruiting coup – Ross Brawn was now the team principal.
That said, Button was able to get in some top 10 qualifying runs, like this one in Bahrain. But a collision with David Coulthard during the race put paid to a chance of a points finish.
2009: Honda stunned many by suddenly pulling out of the sport. This was not part of Button’s or Brawn’s plans. Button was hoping for a management buyout, but did keep open an option to return to Renault (potentially to replace Nelson Piquet Jnr) at the invitation of Flavio Briatore, just in case. But the MBO did push through, and Brawn GP was born.
Ross Brawn’s first proper Brackley car was now armed with Mercedes engines and that controversial double-decker diffuser. And the BGP001 was flying. A one-two on their debut race in Australia was the astonishing result.
Jenson also won the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time – but parking at the wrong spot meant he had to leg it – and the crowd cheered him on to the podium!
But if there’s anything that could beat winning at Monaco, it would be winning at Silverstone. Is he on his way to becoming world champion? Jenson Button has had his ups and downs, but the greatest moments may be yet to come.
Read the first part here: Jenson Button’s career in video (Part 1)