Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton – how Britain’s world champions compare

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Britain's back-to-back champions

For the first time in 36 years, Britain has two world champions competing in F1: Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

To put into perspective how rare and unusual this is, the last country to have a pair of champions competing was Brazil, thanks to Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet, in 1991.

So how do Britain’s two F1 champions compare? And can either of them continue Britain’s championship monopoly for a third straight year in 2010?

Route to F1

Anthony Hamilton looks on as son Lewis prepares to claim the GP2 title at Monza

Button had a lot of success in karting but spent just two seasons in single-seaters racing before graduating to F1.

He won the British Formula Ford championship in 1998, his first year out of karts, and that year’s Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. The following year he moved up to British Formula Three, and ended the year third overall behind Marc Hynes and future F1 driver Luciano Burti.

Button expected the next step in his career to be an F3000 drive. But as luck would have it, a place opened up at Williams at short notice…

McLaren’s man

Hamilton’s path to F1 took a more conventional route but was unusual in one respect. Aged nine he introduced himself to McLaren boss Ron Dennis – and a few years later Dennis came on board to support Hamilton’s career.

Although things didn’t always run smoothly between the Hamilton family and McLaren – with at least one threatened break-up along the way – there’s no denying it was of huge benefit to his development, particularly as he made the tricky jump from karts to racing cars.

He ended his first season of Formula Renault in 2002 with two wins from the final three races. He was clear favourite to win the title in 2003 and, after a patchy start, won ten of the last 13 rounds to claim the championship.

A similar pattern followed in the F3 Euro Series. In his second season, with ASM (now part of the ART powerhouse) he won 15 of the 20 rounds. And he lost another victory ‘on the road’ at Spa due to a technical infringement.

Hamilton claimed the GP2 title at his first attempt in 2006. But there were glimpses of the form we recognise from his three years in F1 in that title-winning season. At some races he flattened his opponents, such as his crushing victory at the Nurburgring. And there were awesome passes – like his three-wide move on Nelson Piquet Jnr and Clivio Piccione at Silverstone.

But with the title in his sight he began throwing points away and making needless mistakes. A mistake in qualifying ruined his weekend in Hungary. And at Istanbul he spun early on and fell to the back of the field – the prelude to an epic fight back to the front.

F1 debuts

Button made a surprise F1 debut for Williams in 2000. It came about because the unhappy Alessandro Zanardi had quit his deal with the team one year early – and Juan Pablo Montoya wasn’t available to take his place until 2001.

Promoting Button to take the seat alongside Ralf Schumacher was always going to be something of a stopgap solution, particularly as Williams had just made an engine deal with BMW. Button got the nod after a shoot-out test with Bruno Junquiera.

Those who felt the 20-year-old had got his break too soon were given ammunition when he qualified on the back row at Melbourne. But he was running in the points when his engine failed 12 laps short of the flag.

His potential soon began to shine through. At Interlagos he finished seventh, before David Coulthard’s disqualification promoted him to sixth, making him the youngest points-scorer ever at the time.

He impressed again with a mature drive to fourth in tricky conditions at Hockenheim, and qualified a sensational third at Spa – ahead of Michael Schumacher, in the days before race-fuel qualifying. His potential was clear, but with Williams unable to retain him for 2001 it would be three years before he could demonstrate his potential again.

Starting at the top

Hamilton’s debut for McLaren was only two years ago, and was remarkable in every sense – beginning with the fact that McLaren had put a rookie in one of their cars for the first time in 12 years.

At Melbourne he passed team mate Fernando Alonso at the first corner, beginning a year-long feud between the two which became a public war of words at Monte-Carlo and the Hungaroring, and ended up with Alonso leaving the team.

Hamilton went into the final two races leading the championship but a combination of bad luck and rookie inexperience saw him lose the title to Kimi Raikkonen. But even without the title, equalling a reigning double champion’ points tally in year one was an extraordinary achievement.

Read more: Hamilton vs Alonso

The championship wait

Future team mate Barrichello chases Button down in 2002

That one year was the sum total of Hamilton’s wait for the championship. At the same track where he lost the title in 2007 he was crowned 12 months later.

Button, meanwhile, had spent the best part of a decade swinging from one extreme to the next.

He endured a ‘difficult second album’ of a season with Benetton in 2001. The car, burdened with Renault’s problematic wide-angle V10, was slow, and Giancarlo Fisichella did a markedly better job coping with it that Button did.

Although Button fared better in 2002, as the team was taken over by Renault, he was shown the door by Flavio Briatore at the end of the year to make way for Alonso.

Button found a home at BAR and has stuck with the team through good times and bad – and two changes of name – for the past seven years. In his coming-of-age season, 2004, Button was consistently best of the rest behind the Ferraris.

But even as BAR were in the ascendancy, Button was looking for a route back to the team that had given him his first F1 break. A Williams deal was announced, which he then went back on, bringing about sharp public criticism and a change of management teams.

BAR made a habit of ‘winning the winter championship’ only to disappoint once the season started. That was especially true in 2005, which proved a disastrous follow-up to the previous years’ success. The season hit a low point at Imola, where the team was found to be using an illegal fuel tank, and banned for two races.

There were two significant changes for 2006: a new team mate in Rubens Barrichello and, more significantly, the team had now been taken over by engine suppliers Honda.

Once again their pre-season form wasn’t borne out by results in the first half of the season. However in Hungary Button seized the initiative on a damp but drying track to claim his long-awaited first win. Fortune had been on Button’s side – Alonso dropping out after pitting from the lead – but his drive from 14th on the grid to win had a lot of class about it.

Button ended the year on a high, scoring more points than anyone else over the final six races. But the team got its 2007 challenger badly wrong, and Button and Barrichello spent the year scratching round at the back of the field. Only late in the season did they finally amass enough points to overhaul Super Aguri, Honda’s offshoot B-team using a modified version of their 2006 car.

On track the results in 2008 were scarcely any better, though Barrichello tended to out-perform his team mate. With hindsight, appointing Ross Brawn to run the team and focus priorities on the 2009 car was exactly the right thing to do. But Honda, unnerved by the economic downturn at the end of 2008, decided it couldn’t wait any longer for results and put the team up for sale.

Read more: Hungarian Grand Prix 2006 Review

Their championship wins

McLaren celebrate Hamilton's championship victory in 2008

The differences between Hamilton’s championship win in 2008 and Button’s in 2009 tell us a lot about their strengths and weaknesses.

Inevitably their seasons were shaped by the cars they drove. Hamilton enjoyed a consistently competitive McLaren throughout 2008. Though it was seldom as dominant as Button’s Brawn was in the first half of 2009, nor was it out-classed in the way the BGP001 sometimes was in the latter stages of this year.

Button made hay while the sun shone with six wins from the first seven races. He was clinical, smooth, undramatic and uncontroversial.

Hamilton was quite the opposite – a rough diamond. On his day he could reel off masterful, untroubled victories – Melbourne and Silverstone, for example. But there were needless mistakes at Bahrain and Magny-Cours, among others. He should have wrapped the championship up before the final race of the season, like Button did, had he not thrown away points on these occasions.

But while Button struggled to beat Barrichello in the second half of 2009 – especially in qualifying – Hamilton was rarely troubled by his team mate.

In the run-up to Brazil this year it was amusing to read the criticism of Button, particularly in the national newspapers, saying he was being too conservative and in danger of throwing away the championship. Much of this criticism came from people who, 12 months earlier had criticised Hamilton for not being conservative enough.

Although it’s easy to over-state these points there is a grain of truth in them. Hamilton is a hot-blooded, Senna-esque (or even Villeneuve-esque) racers’ racer. He’ll wring every tenth out of the car and then a few more, but the downside is he might stick it in the wall every now and then. Button is more of a shrewd, smooth Prost-like operator, but can be flummoxed by an unco-operative car or low tyre temperatures.

It’s been pointed out already that they both won their championships by finishing in fifth at Brazil, in cars bearing the same number and both with Mercedes engines.

But for all the superficial similarities their differences in style and background are deeper and more profound. But Britain’s last two consecutive champions, Graham Hill (1968) and Jackie Stewart (1969) didn’t have an awful lot in common either.

Career statistics to date

Jenson ButtonLewis Hamilton
Grand Prix starts16951
Grand Prix wins711
Grand Prix podiums2327
Pole positions716
Fastest laps23

Author information

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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100 comments on “Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton – how Britain’s world champions compare”

  1. Terry Fabulous
    24th October 2009, 7:54

    Great comparison Keith, there are certainly some striking differences between their routes to No 1.

    Ironically, given that I am an unabashed lover of Jenson and the way he drives the car, this season has convinced me that Lewis is better!

    My biggest criticism of Lewis has been his inability to develop a car, thinking that Alonso did all the work for him. Well this season has shown what a good job he can do. I’m sure that if you put the two of them in the same car, Lewis would come out on top.

    Jenson is still freaking fast and a deserved World Champion though, thank goodness he grabbed this opportunity.

  2. Excellent article Keith. I can see a few more championships for Lewis, but I think that’s it for Jenson now. Still, well done to them both.

    1. There is not question about it with Hamilton, he may be 40 points behind this season which if he hadn’t got disqualified in one race and lost 6 for pushing at Monza he would be several points less, he’s best of the rest apart from Brawn/RedBull. If no car outshines next year he’ll take it.

      You can see his style from the last few races (Not so sure what Heikki is doing is the same car!), Lewis has now had three podiums in a row (5 for the races he has finished, while Heikki has had 5,4,6,6,7,11,12th

      7/7 race finishes, 17 points for HeiKki
      5/7 tace finishes, 40 points for Lewis

    2. LH and his erratic over aggressive driving is Senna-esque yet Kobbie was dangerous and a hazard…

      Another nothing article to do nothing more than fulfill a gushing love affair that some have with LH.

      1. why don’t you go and write your own blog then?

  3. 1st of all excellent job Keith
    They are worth champions but a news in ESPNSTAR last night said both Button & Hamilton will be in Mclaren from 2010 I don’t how true that is if it is why will Brawn wants to shed off Button when he said he want to stay in the team for future.

    Between them I will have Hamilton in my team because he is aggressive & will provide for feedback than Button.

    1. @wasif1
      There are some payment issues btw brawn and Button i believe,thats by Button may move to McLaren.

      1. how utterly bonkers.

        When you get given a car by Adrian Newey or Ross Brawn you should take it and keep it.

  4. lets hope they are teammates next year as well!

  5. great article Keith and I disagree with SonyJunkie,Button era is not over..he will win next year too

  6. This has to be one of my favourite articles which is a credit as I dislike both the drivers but I love comparisons like these. I suppose the next this could happen is if Heikki of Jaime won (and then we could compare the Fins or the Spaniards). Good thing there are a lot of young talented Germans.
    As much as it pains me-I prefer Hamilton’s driving, I think he’s better and I like that style.
    Next year, providing the cars are as quick as we expect, I think Hamilton will be the contender for the title. Hamilton will enjoy more support-he is a love or hate character but he will maybe get more grief too. Jense will probably be overlooked unless he is winning as that is our British way :P.
    Hamilton until this season has always had a good car allowing him to win, to judge how good he is, the performances need to be looked at. Not all rookies could take on the reigning WDC in his first year.
    In his short time Hamilton has been put with Alonso and Kimi in terms of being a great driver (you can put whoever you want with those 2 it is just Alo and Kimi are considered the best) whereas after nearly a decade Jense still struggles for that recognition.

  7. Personally I think Button’s best chance of another title win would be to stay put and get the car designed to his style. I think LH’s style is to need a more edgy car which JB couldn’t cope with, then LH would make him look a chump!

    1. I agree. A car built for Lewis will not suit Jenson’s driving stile.

  8. great article.. but i think SonyJunkie is correct.. seriously i think hamilton is quicker then button.. and a lot more racer is faster then button.. like alonso,kimi,massa and hamilton etc..

  9. It’s not too complicated. Button is Prost-smooth. He needs the car to be a certain set-up in order to be quick. If not, then he’ll drive within the limits of the car, mistake free, like Prost. Hamilton is Senna-smooth. He’ll develop the car but simultaneously driving beyond the deficencies in setup or design is built into his talent. Mistakes may and do come. Like Senna. Over a race, Hamilton is quickest. Over a season, Button is reliable.

  10. British fans must be the most broadminded F1 Fans. We find people over here who support Ferrari. I would like to know if there is at least one Italian who supports McLaren or Williams? Just goes to show how nice we are. But sadly there is no reciprocation.

    1. Maybe it is a lot to do with the media, countries tend to be fanatical about their own country. Look at Brit whenever one or ours is winning they’re treated like a God in the media which gives that impression to the rest of the world. It may be that situation in other places too.
      I think Rampante did say that Italy genuinely loved the Ferrari car and probably STR/Minardi too. I don’t really know much about other countries feelings towards F1 teams so I can’t comment that much.

      1. Not true; Lewis got loads of positive press in his first year, but was slaughtered by the British press in his second year. The British press has been overly praiseworthy of Button – I’ve seen articles in all the major papers saying he is a worthy champion as if they want to convince us of it. I remember even Keith put him as the best driver half way through the season (wonder if that will stay the same) which I thought was purely because he had more points. Pretty meaningless when he had the best car by a mile. As soon as Button won the championship this year, the Times put him 16th of the best 50 modern F1 drivers, with Hamilton ludicrously 21st, 5 places behind him. Despite Lewis winning more GPs in less starts, etc etc. Also, there was non-stop hating going on when Lewis moved to Switzerland, whereas not a mention was made of Button or Coulthard’s tax exile status in Monaco. So much was made of it, I saw comment from a reader on the Daily Heil site saying at least Button lived in this country and paid his taxes unlike Lewis. You see, he hadn’t even heard of Button’s Monaco residency because he wasn’t berated in the same way.

        So the British press are not always supportive of British drivers, especially if they are black. Whereas I’m sure Spanish newspapers are 100% behind Teflonso, and Polish newspapers 100% behind Kubica.

    2. I know one Italian who supports McLaren, ironically because she considers Schumacher a cheat.

      I think it has a lot to do with the fact that in Britain the media focuses so much more on the driver. In Italy, maybe they care more about the team, and want drivers to succeed to that end.

    3. British fans must be the most broadminded F1 Fans. We find people over here who support Ferrari. I would like to know if there is at least one Italian who supports McLaren or Williams?

      I’ve seen Italians supporting McLaren, Hamilton and some of them Williams, but they write in Italians Blogs, something that you, “Broadminded F1 fans”, hardly think it could happen… but believe me, there are Italian blogs, some of them serious ones, full plenty of F1 fans not needing to come to a British blog to write about F1!!!!

    4. I have to disagree, there are a lot of LH supporters in many diff countries as well as other drivers, go to any foreign F1 forum and you’ll see the same love/hate with the big names, FA, LH, KR,…, if you are a true fanatic you can support a driver but that shouldn’t stop you from admiring others.

    5. British F1 fans are not broadminded. They have a trendy anti-partisanship which is as ridiculous as Spain’s blind devotion to Alonso. “Look at me, I buck trends by not following the British driver” is how many British F1 fans want to be seen. It’s a bit pathetic, I think.

      1. You can’t say that any nation “has the most broadminded fans”, but I think countries that are newer to F1 are more inclined to supporting domestic drivers.

        I think there is some “trendy anti-partisanship” (good phrase!) but equally there are people who support British teams and British drivers. But one of the good things about being a British F1 fan is you usually have the choise of a couple of drivers and hald-a-dozen teams that are from Britain.

        1. To play devil’s advocate to my own point slightly, one reason Britain’s fans tend to be quite ‘broadminded’ is that the British F1 press is far more international in its focus. F1 Racing is translated into many languages, the BBC and Speed TV commentary are heard all over the world and the British websites are popular outside of English speaking countries too.

          And before you try to disprove my point with me with the terrifying words “James” and “Allen”, just see the kind of bias the Spanish TV spews out:

          (‘el milagro’ means ‘the miracle’)

          Suddenly British commentary looks a lot more impartial.

          1. Sorry, link dead. Damn. It was funny, anyway, showing the Spanish commentators calling Hamilton’s ’07 Chinese GP retirement ‘a miracle’.

  11. Those statistics say it all, Hamilton would clean the floor with Button i’m sure.

  12. Hamilton is obviously better than Button when it comes to driving cars that aren’t perfectly double-diffused. However, with a perfect car maybe they are somewhat equal because they both would get poles and wins. I’ll take Hamilton though because no car is great at every track all season.

  13. Button isn’t even top 8 in terms of skill.

    1. Rubbish, and i think this year proves it!

  14. The Mclaren is designed around Lewis, next years car must already be well down that road. As Jenson and Lewis’s driving stiles are so far apart, the car cannot suit both drivers. So where would this leave jenson???

  15. Nice, in-depth analysis Keith. I think it’s fair to say Hamilton is better than Button, and that this is down to their style more than an out-and-out talent war (though I would argue Lewis pips Jenson here too). Getting that dog of a McLaren to 9th place in Spain, where last year in similar situations Button rarely scored a point, demonstrates the difference between them.

    In his brilliant book on Hamilton, Mark Hughes says that if Lewis can learn to iron out rash mistakes, he’ll be even more complete than Schumacher was (I’d argue Alonso is getting there too, but whilst his cool nature on the track prevents him from making Schumacher-style blunders, it also prevents him from squeezing out those last few hundredths that would separate him from the Meister in a head-to-head challenge in equal cars at the top of their form – what Hamilton has to do is be smart about situations, rather than less aggressive). I can’t see Button joining the top ranks of drivers, what I call “Tier 0”, and only at a push will he join the great “Tier 1” drivers like (currently) Alonso and Hamilton, and Raikkonen. If only Button had peaked in form and achievement in a grid less crowded with talent, he might have had more of a chance to show off how good he is. I’d be surprised to see him win another title, but only because of what he’ll be up against.

    1. Just to add, I hope we have the old Kimi back in a quick car next year. When you think of who they’re most like in style, it should be epic:

      Hamilton – Senna
      Button – Prost
      Alonso – Schumacher
      Raikkonen – hard to say but he reminds me of Gilles Villeneuve
      Massa – A nicer version of Nelson Piquet Snr
      Button – Prost/Hill
      Rosberg – a bit like daddy, really! But better, and he wasn’t a bad racer at all

      1. Massa – A nicer version of Nelson Piquet Snr

        Nicer version for sure, but I can hardly imagine Felipe baby doing this:

        1. I remember Massa doing the first bit of that. Was it on Hamilton or on Alonso?

      2. Why those choices for the others Nick? Just interested. :)

      3. I would say Vettel’s more like Rosberg snr.

        Not sure about Nico…..

        1. Nah, Rosberg Snr. could overtake… ;)

          I would hope that none of the drivers are like anyone other than themselves!

      4. Raikkonen – Mansell

        1. Raikkonen – hard to say but he reminds me of Gilles Villeneuve

          I’d say Raikkonen James Hunt

      5. Who does barrichello drive like?

        1. Who does barrichello drive like?

          I’d say Ricardo Patrese. Both are nice guys who wasted their careers at Williams-Renault & Ferrari respectively. But Rubens’ treatment at Ferrari was cruel :(

      6. LH is not like Senna, I am sick to death of people thinking he is even close…

        The closest driver to anything like Senna was Montoya.

        Button is again not prost like, Alonso is not Schui, massa is over rated, Damon Hill was a joke, and Kimmi like Gilles…fair suck of a lemon…nothing alike bar they drove red cars.

        If I hear LH is the new Senna one more time I will vomit.

  16. Nice detailed analysis Keith.

    The question of who of them is better, I think can be easily answered:

    Put both drivers on the market at the same price, which one of them do you honestly think will receive more offers from all teams?

    1. Button? Only joking.

    2. That’s an interesting question. Thinking in terms of raw talent and future potential, the answer is obvious.

      However, we should remember that Button is significantly more experienced and has driven in a range of cars. More importantly, he has avoided any major controversies over almost a decade in F1 and is now a WDC. Lewis has had two controversies already in his brief but illustrious F1 career.

      I’m sure there are team principals out there who would balk at putting themselves in Martin Whitmarsh’s shoes during Liegate in Australia 09.

      Not many can claim to be controversy-free WDCs, there have only been two in this decade.

    3. ian dancan smath
      11th November 2009, 12:42


      lewis the best

  17. Mark Hitchcock
    24th October 2009, 10:39

    Fantastic article Keith.

  18. Oversteer vs Understeer.

    Excitement vs Consistency.

    Hamilton better at point and squirt tracks.
    Button better at flowing smooth tracks.

    Dare I say it, a bit like Senna and Prost.

    But Hamilton is the better ‘racer’ with his agressive overtakes, that’s why he shades it for me, although Button seemed to have changed at Interlagos : )

    1. The difference between a Button overtake and a Hamilton overtake is the probability of an accident. Button is always fair and clean with his moves (see Brazil 2009), whereas Hamilton is a lot more likely to take a desperate lunge and put his competitors on the grass (see Monza 2008)

      1. Who did Hamilton put on the grass while he was overtaking? Right, no one.

        1. Mark Hitchcock
          24th October 2009, 22:40

          He was much too aggressive though.
          This is honestly coming from someone who’s not biased for or against Hamilton.

        2. Mark Hitchcock
          24th October 2009, 22:44

          p.s it scares me to argue with you :P You know much more than me about most things!

        3. Mark Webber and Kubica(from memory.
          The Webber one was absolutely pure arrogance, reminded me of some drivers on the roads that have to be one car ahead untill the next red light and will run you off the road doing so.

      2. button at valencia? he almost crashed into rosberg i think, doing one of his bonzi’s! on the first lap, and button only passed the rookies at brazil, (and they dont really know what they are doing)

        1. Egggsactly!

      3. ian dancan smath
        11th November 2009, 12:44

        thats a joke man.

  19. Those stats say it all. There is no comparison between them. Lewis is better by a mile.

    I am disappointed that no mention was made of the unjust penalties that Lewis had to endure in his title year which hindered his progress and was something that Button didn’t endure. The Spa penalty stole a deserved race win from him. The Japan penalty was undeserved – we have seen many off track moments at the start of a race before and since that weren’t penalised. Lewis should have ended up with more wins and points if there was no discrimination against him. Then there was the favouritism towards Massa who didn’t get the penalty in Valencia coming out of the pitlane, even though a GP2 driver had done exactly the same thing in the same weekend and got a penalty. The spat between Bourdais and Massa where Massa deserved the penalty but Bourdais got it. (Expect more of the same next year now Todt is FIA President.) There was also the psychological pressure that Lewis had that Button didn’t – no fellow driver support over the Spa penalty, drivers queuing up to back Massa for the title over Lewis, just general jealousy and spite all round. For Lewis to still prevail through all that showed his mettle even more.

  20. I think Hamilton is the better of the two.

    I would be very surprised if these rumours about Hamilton and Button together at McLaren next year were true, it is either wishful thinking from the tabloids or a negotiation tactic by both sides, Button showing Brawn he has other options to get his price up, and McLaren showing Raikkonen they have other options to get his price down.

  21. Wow. Awesome article – lots of research.

  22. I am fully with you there S. Hughes. Nice update of a difficult road to championship by LH :-(

    As has been written multiple times already, the two champs do differ tremendously in almost all aspects of driving. But they do share a love for dark-skined girls though ;-)

    1. You’re welcome BBQ2. I thought it was worth mentioning because of the rough ride that Hamilton endured externally to his team that Button hasn’t in any manner shape or form. It shows even more how much more formidable was Lewis’s championship than Button’s.

      As for the girls, yes both pretty, but Nicole is the star for me. I hope they get hitched. :)

      1. Oh, and how could I forget the racist abuse in Spain and Brazil? Very psychologically hurtful and off putting.

        1. What racist abuse in Brazil?

      2. that was her job pre pussy cat dolls…and we all know the pussy cat dolls are talentless over hyped pop trash.

        Put it this way if the pusssy cat dolls didnt had ex-strippers singing but had ugly betty’s they wouldnt be anything.

  23. Keith,

    Hamilton is a revelation, he outclassed a Formula 1 great in his first season and won the championship in his second season. And you have to remember that the Ferrari was actually the better car in 08. Button has waited 10 years to get a dominant car and what’s more when their dominance finally subsided there was no team on the grid ready to capitalise. Jenson enjoyed good fortune at nearly every turn, Lewis won in spite of his inexperience and outrageous penalties and he beat the two Ferrari’s. Given a decent car Hamilton will dominate for years to come, Jenson has won his one and only championship.

    1. Unless Brawn pulls it out of the bag again and produces another dominant car.

      Would be funny if Rosberg and ANO driver were in a dominant Brawn next year, and walked the championship again. Think it would prove definitively that this year’s championship was down to the car and not the driver.

    2. I don’t think you can say that about the Ferrari, it was generally a dog in the wet (maybe that is harsh but it wasn’t the best)and wasn’t there some tracks it struggled with because of tyres? Ferrari had more engine failures, but then again their drivers still made mistakes. It’s hard to just say which car was the best.
      The car is only one part though, it’s driver and strategy too.
      Talking about penalities will only get the same old argument of who was right and who was wrong, it happened and there is nothing we can do now.
      Not taking anything away from Lewis, he deserved it last year but so would have Felipe in my view. Lewis is one of the greats on the grid at the moment.

      1. Steph90, you can’t airbrush the penalties from history. They played a huge part in how the championship panned out and people still bang on about Massa having 6 wins to Lewis’ 5, so why shouldn’t people respond that that is only because Spa was stolen from him unjustly? Past championships are always dissected and discussed so I don’t understand why this aspect shouldn’t be.

        I agree though that the McLaren and Ferrari were pretty evenly matched which is better than when one car is way more superior to all others as is what happened at the beginning of this year.

        1. Fine it depends on if you feel the penalties were right or not and Lewis I felt got away with one in Monza in 08 with being very aggressive with Glock. But it is done now. Massa suffered misfortune, Singapore (too many ifs there) and Hungary. These things just happen and as unfair as it is the teams and drivers have to get on with it. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be discussed, as you’re right is should be but it always seems to end up boiling down the same argument of who was right and wrong with the penalties.
          There wasn’t much between the cars last year, I think that is why last year was so spectacular.

  24. JB is a lot like JV, after all they were team mates,and LH hasn’t had to deal with years of crap cars…but coming game changer is no fuel stops ,JB will handle this mush better then LH.

  25. Lewis FTW 2010, no doubt. Alonso can only watch.

  26. Different styles off course. I do think Hamilton is the better one of the 2 as well. I can’t see Button grabbing another world title but I surely hope the Brawn will be competative again next year. But with Alonso in a Ferrari, Hamilton in a McClaren and Vettel in the Red Bull… I really don’t see how Button is going to do that. Those three drivers are way more talented than anyone on the grid (except Kimi but he doesn’t have a car yet so let’s wait and see) and they all seem to have a competative car under them in 2010. If you did a poll right now on “who’s going to be 2010 world champion F1” with those drivers and Button I’d be surprised if he gets more than 5% of the votes. He’s a decent driver but he lacks the raw talent of Alonso/Hamilton IMO.

  27. @dj: You seem to stand alone in your view. You seem also to belong to those who never sees any archievment in LH and still wish him a bad car. But remember: only bad drivers get bad cars!! LH critics are now seeing a different man this year. Bringing a dog of a car at the start of the season into a race winning car is not an easy job…. ask Schumi, he will tell you more. You still believe LH cannot drive without re-fuelling? Well you will eat your words next year as many others did this year :-( Why so bitter on the young man?

  28. Great article Keith although I’m surprised (am I really surprised?) that most people commenting have seen it as a “Who is the best?” between Button and Hamilton.

    Here’s to England having two WDC’s in F1!

  29. It’s great to see such a profound and correct analysis of two drivers whose career I’ve followed from the beginning, cause I’ve been watching Formula 1 since 1991… you don’t need to hear this to be sure of your qualities, but you’re surely one of the best sports writer I’ve ever read in any language…

    Great job, and I only disagree about Prost and Button in one point: Alain was certainly mentally stronger than Jenson is… but, in terms of smoothness, they really look like each other, just like Hamilton’s and Senna’s agressiveness…

  30. I agree with pSynrg.

    it’s not who is better it is all about how we have consecutive world champions, i don’t think one is better as they both won the titles when they had the best cars on the track, both deserve everyones praise. i am a huge LH fan but i was cheering for JB after monaco he so deserved the title. bring on a more realistic 2011 when they can be teammates , JB for one more title LH for 3-4

  31. The following is from an editorial at, and pretty much sums up Button (though I think the last sentence is actually too flattering):

    ” No matter his status as reigning World Champion, Button is not the best driver in F1. Such is the ability of Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, he’s probably not even the third best. He won this year’s championship because he drove superbly in a car that was far better than any other on the grid until the mid-season point. Without that advantage, fourth place in the Drivers’ Standing may be the summit of his realistic ambition for 2010 “.

    1. well planet f1 is a joke but they do speak a bit of truth here…and by that merit the same should be said of LH WDC…
      Had the best car by far 2 years in a row. and he and the team bricked themselves towards the end of the season but finally had a Bradbry and fell over the line

  32. PlanetF1 is a joke

    1. hamilton is better than button! i dont think it is even worth bringing up the question “who is better?”

      Hamilton won his title competeing against the class of the feild where there was a driver who was actually consistent enough to challenge him through the whole season!
      Button won his championship competing against drivers who are not “the class of the feild”, while the class of the feild were at the back driving absolute dogs.

      I will say it again and again but thats why buttons title is not the same as hamiltons. the only was that button will ever win another championship with brawn is if there is another major rule change, and im really looking forward to see how he goes next year, and if it goes how the second half of this season has been, well lets just say i wouldnt want to be a button fan

    2. The real joke is any comparison between Lewis and Button. An elite F1 driver (former) compared to a chronic loser who lucked once in his career to have far and away the best car for at least half the season.

    3. Not all the editorials in Planet-F1 are a joke and there are some quite knowledgable contributors in the forums until they get bogged down in the fanboy fights the threads often degenerate into. The moderators are fierce though – I think they missed their vocation as fascist dictators.

  33. ah, BBQ2,your the one that is bitter,reading something that is not in my post. Look diff. styles of driving can win the day (just look a Vet an Web)but to win the WDC you need lots of luck too. That’s why JV an LH did not win the WDC there 1st year in F1 ,even though they were the best driver in there rookie year.

  34. ops,”there” should be “in”

  35. Even with his dominance of the first half of the season Button has scored 89 compared with Hamilton’s 98 last season.

    On who is currently the most successful of the present drivers using percentage of wins Hamiton is on 22% with Alonso on 15% and Kimi on 12% Massa on 10% Button has 4% Schumacher scored 36%

    Podiums we have Hamilton on 53% Kimi 40% Alonso 38% Masa 22% with Rubens 24% and Button 14%
    Schumachers wins again with 62%

    Who is the best driver British having seen all the chmpions since Graham hill the best was Jim Clark , the most popular Graham Hill and the best racers Nigel Mansell and Lewis Hamilton two drivers who got the hair on the back of the neck stand up especially in qualifying.

    With regards to Button I feel quite deflated by his championship and look forward to seeing Lewis retake it next year. A true racerwho will become one of the true graets.

    1. John S, very interesting statistics. Thank you. There are such interesting comments on this site. I agree with you re. this championship – very deflating and anti-climactic. But the British media seem to be constantly trying to convince us all that Button deserved it, as if saying it enough will make people believe it.

      Would be interesting to revisit those statistics in 5 years’ time.

    2. Well put John S, although Lewis results will grow in the future I’m sure. Also I’d add Stewart most intelligent driver. Ortherwise agree with everything you say.

  36. wong chin kong
    25th October 2009, 3:09

    Button not yet got his contract renewed with Brawn GP for next year under his terms. Brawn is delaying-are they having second thoughts about Button ability to challenge for next year championship after seeing his pathetic second half efforts? There will not be another surprise underdog miracle from Brawns ‘double diffuser effect” to help Button next year. Button’s smooth but boring non aggresive driving is no match to Hamilton on the limit spirited driving. Hamilton to regain his throne next season.

    1. Brawn is delaying-are they having second thoughts about Button ability to challenge for next year championship after seeing his pathetic second half efforts?

      I’m afraid that question has more to do with money.

      Button has reduced his annual fee to 3 Millions this year and for next year he’s asking for the same amount he had in his contract with Honda, I think it was around 9 Millions.

  37. Great comparisons, and the statistics at the end really answered everything. Say what you like about Lewis Hamilton, these last two years he has achieved more or almost equal to what many F1 drivers do in their entire careers.
    To think that Juan Montoya won nine grands prix between 2001 and 2006, Coulthard won thirteen grands prix between 1994 and 2008, and Mika Hakkinen won twenty events between 1991 and 2001. Then there’s Hamilton with eleven wins in two years, including two this year in a car that was far worse than anybody expected.
    When you look at the facts like this, and consider that one of those above mentioned drivers is an Indy 500 winner, and another an F1 double world champion, Hamilton’s rise is nothing short of staggering.
    The problem with modern F1 is that we are still, to a certain degree, overshadowed by the achievements of Michael Schumacher. Schumacher, love him or loathe him, rewrote the script on how to dominate championships in almost a computer like way. Everybody called Alain Prost the ‘professor’ twenty years ago, where as Schumacher took it to another level.
    Thus, as has been proven with Kimi Raikkonen, the expectations we have don’t always bear fruit, and its just not as simple as dumping a fast driver in a good car and watching him run riot.
    With Jenson Button, in the eyes of many at the end of 2008, was a lost cause. His career was in stark contrast to that of Hamilton, and appeared to be at an end. Nobody, in their right mind, expected Button or Brawn Gp to be anything other than midfield fodder. There to make up the numbers so the grid still looked exciting enough for the fans at home.
    Hamilton was the champion, the obvious driver to win again in 2009, with Massa, Raikkonen, and Alonso as the rivals. As it transpired, three of those drivers have largely struggled in poor cars, the other was nearly killed by a loose spring!
    Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for so many. Look at Robert Kubica. Up until Brazil, his best outing had been back in March in Australia. Even that had ended in the fence following a late race scrap with Vettel.
    To add insult to injury, his employers, BMW Sauber, announced the team was quitting! Not quite the championship winning year the Pole no doubt had in mind when he started.
    So Button has made the most of his ‘chance’, and boy am I relieved he did it, and he deserved it! When I look at Hamilton in one way I am reminded of Aryton Senna. No, before you all scream at me enmasse, Hamilton is not better than Senna, nor am I saying he is going to be as successful as Senna, but he does share one thing in common with the late Brazilian.
    He’s controversial! People love him, people also hate him too. As much as I loved watching Murray Walker on tv as a child, I’ll never forgot the poisonious way he attacked Senna for his move on Prost at Japan 1990. He was not alone, then four years later, when he died, praised him as one of the worlds greatest drivers ever!
    Despite some of the bad things these drivers do, the delibrate crashing into rivals or lying to stewards, its hard not to miss their talents when they are no longer with us.
    I never liked Michael Schumacher all that much, for many different reasons, but still found myself welling up when he announced his retirement in 2006 at Monza.
    Such are the emotions of Formula One!

  38. Great analysis. Well-balanced. But that Prost comparison is really mischievous.

    It’s a cruel comparison—and a bit of set-up. There is possibly some similarity of driving style, but that is not too compelling. Lots of smooth drivers come and go. The difference between them is accomplishment.

    The sad tale of Button lucking into a seat via Zanardi’s flame-out, and getting brushed aside in favor of JPM and then Alonso, reminds us that his success is due to some outrageous fortune, not some ember of greatness that would not go out.

    Alain Prost was never a journeyman. He does not have the sheaf of pink-slips Button has. And regarding Button’s various redundancies, he is still not on par with his replacements: Alonso is still the gold standard, and has further proved his value by fantastically wringing out crap cars for two years. His replacement at Williams did just fine—only to be dealt with by Raikkonen, the world-champion. And his whipping by the then-rated Fisichella we now know only flattered the Italian to deceive. At BAR, he dealt with often-quick Sato, usually, but he has had no clear edge over Barichello, famous footstool to the Legend. In short, there is much evidence that current drivers on the grid and many who have gone are better than Button. Prost took his licks from Senna at times but there is no such gaggle of drivers who can say they took his measure.

    Hamilton has a preciously narrow record, but he can make claims Button cannot: he went toe-to-toe with champions and held his own, he has not been dislodged from his seat by some greater genius, and he has shown Alonso-like abilities to fling a horrible car down the road with shocking pace. Maybe in time Alonso and Raikkonen will turn out to be over-rated, maybe Kovalainen will be regarded as a Finnish Sakon Yamamoto. But probably not.

    Finally, there is one journeyman-turned-legend nobody mentions. And he is English as well! If Button comes good, then he will be likened to Mansell, not Prost, and it will be a more flattering comparison.

  39. Hamilton v Button – wasnt that decided in the reasonably priced car? when Hamilton impressed with an identical time on a wet/oily track to the dry normal conditions Jenson had.


    1. That only decided the fastest-over-a-single-lap debate, which is already accepted as one for Hamilton.

      (we’re talking about BBC’s Top Gear, for those who don’t receive it)

  40. I’m no LH fanboi by ant stretch but he is by far a better talent than JB.

    But the pure resilience of JB after so many years of having a car that was a bad of dung. LH had a baad car for half a season and was thowing his toys out of the pram. How would he handle having more than a few lean years?
    Alonso has worked his way theu the ranks became a double WDC walked away from a race winning team after felling short changed by the team that courted him to joined them and then had a few lean years again…yet he is still the best or most highly rated driver on the grid.

    Another driver to add to the list is Webber, while no LH, Webber has always out gunned all is team mates bar this year…and only just been shaded this year mind you. He has always wrung the neck out of every car he had and made it perform better than it should on paper.

    Greatness is more than just winning a WDC and that IMHO is something LH (and his fan) have to figure out. Hill won a WDC but isnt even on the list of greats, Montoya never won but he would be rated higher on the ‘greats’ list. Another all time great would be Stirling Moss as an example.

    WDC doesn’t make you a great…The greats are few and far between…we were blessed in the 80’s-90’s to have a higher than normal amount of them.

    LH does have the makings to be one of the greats but that will depend on him and how he manages his destiny rather than he and his father manipulating his ego.

    1. I don’t understand why people rate Alonso so highly.

      Anyone who can be beaten by a rookie can’t be so good really.

      He also hardly blew Trulli away in 2004. In the first half of the year Trulli had the upper hand. Why Trulli did so badly in the second half of the year and then got sacked remains a mystery, but we only have to look at Piquet and Bourdais’s(?) complaints to assume that Briatore probably had a lot to do with it.

      If we accept that you only know a driver by his performance against his teammates, all we know of Alonso is that he can beat Fisichella and rookies.

      Watch Massa destroy him next year. And I don’t even rate Massa that highly.

  41. Do you think Hamilton would win next year’s world championship if McLaren had decided to build next their ’10 from January 09? The Brawn car was 2 years in the making, and McLaren still managed to catch up their 2 second deficit in a half a season.

    Missing stats

    First 7 races of 09: 6 wins out of 7 races (85.714% win rate)

    Rest of Career: 1 win out of 162 races (0.00617 win rate)

    Button owes a huge thank you to the double diffuser and the fact Honda gave Brawn so much money.

    LH is class. He proved it with the evolution of this year’s car. Most of the technical modifications of the Brawn were being made by Rubinho who helped Button to set up his car. It’s no surprise that Button’s results dropped off as Rubinho stopped giving him 100% of the technical advice later in the season.

  42. Do you think Hamilton would win next year’s world championship if McLaren had decided to build next their ’10 from January 09? The Brawn car was 2 years in the making, and McLaren still managed to catch up their 2 second deficit in a half a season.

    Missing stats

    First 7 races of 09: 6 wins out of 7 races (85.714% win rate)

    Rest of Career: 1 win out of 162 races (0.00617% win rate)

    Button owes a huge thank you to the double diffuser and the fact Honda gave Brawn so much money.

    LH is class. He proved it with the evolution of this year’s car. Most of the technical modifications of the Brawn were being made by Rubinho who helped Button to set up his car. It’s no surprise that Button’s results dropped off as Rubinho stopped giving him 100% of the technical advice later in the season.

  43. Hamilton has skill yes but some of his driving style is helped from the fast reflexes he has being so young. Lets see how well Lewis does when he gets close to his 30’s, he wont be so agile afterwards, and he might slump for 2-3 years trying to adapt to it. He might even retire before he is 35 knowing this.

    Jensons skill has peaked late since he is a smooth racer not a Vettel or Hamilton.

    I think Jenson’s last few years of driving in Formula 1 will be better then Hamiltons down the line.

    Lewis would be replaced by a younger, faster driver if he cant adapt to a Jenson or Rubens style of driving.

    Jenson can only get better with more races under his belt, Lewis on the otherhand can only get worse the less agile he becomes. Surely Lewis is thinking of the future and how he will have to change his style slightly so not to be a flash in the pan.

  44. Next year will tell. No drastic rule changes to hide behind…and interesting to see how the teams will deal with strategy. Red Bull screwed up this year on poor strategy early on.

    Jenson is more of a joker than Hamilton. I think he would be on his 3rd championship bid by now had he a better work ethic. You simply can’t put all the blame on his previous teams because it never seemed like he was hungry a la Alonso. Now that is one guy that burns for it.

    Next year will be Alonso vs Massa….and in the background Hamilton walking away with the championship as Ferrari asks itself why it chose to sign Alonso. There is simply too much ego around those two for it to work out, mark my words. I don’t recall seeing Kimi and Massa fighting on track these last 3 years, but trust me Massa and Alonso as well will put the moves on one another, guaranteed!

    I can hardly wait!

  45. Without the Brawn DDD, there would be no justification to compare. The question about Button in 2009 would have been: “when is he going to retire?”

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