2016 F1 season driver rankings #14: Button

2016 F1 season review

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On the face of it Jenson Button has chosen the right time to hang up his helmet. Only a few times during the 2016 campaign did he produce the kind of performances expected of a world champion.

Jenson Button

Beat team mate in qualifying 4/20
Beat team mate in race 5/13
Races finished 15/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate 344/956
Points 21

Among these high points was Austria, where for half-a-dozen laps we were treated to the rare sight of a McLaren holding a legitimate second place. Button reached the position courtesy of a top-drawer qualifying effort on a damp track and went on to bring his MP4-31 home third.

A battling drive to eighth in Germany – having suffered an unusual eye injury during practice – and a recovery run to ninth in Austin were other examples of Button at his best. But it was an otherwise frustrating season for Button while Fernando Alonso claimed the lion’s share of the team’s points.

Five technical retirements, which was the most of any driver and more than twice as many as his team mate, further limited his points-scoring opportunities. The most galling was in Bahrain where the Honda failed while he was following Max Verstappen, who went on to finish sixth. It also meant Stoffel Vandoorne scored a point before either he or Alonso did.

Technical problems occasionally stymied his qualifying efforts too, notably in Canada and Britain. But there’s no getting away from the fact Alonso comprehensively out-played Button in this respect.

The 2009 champion lost the qualifying battle 15-4 and dropped out in Q1 five times to Alonso’s two. Unusually for Button errors began to creep in, notable on the streets of Baku and Singapore.

Having revealed his plans to step down at Monza, Button seldom managed to beat his team mate over the remainder of the year. The nadir was a baffling weekend in Brazil where he admitted to being at a loss to understand his car’s handling in wet or dry conditions.

His dejection at dropping out of his final race with a suspension failure early in the running was obvious. But it’s equally clear Button realised the time to step down has come.

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Over to you

First half of the season was pretty good, with Austria one of his best weekends ever, but Alonso was better even until then. After the announcement he really said goodbye and I’ll miss him, but it’s good to see he won’t be dragging on forever.

What’s your verdict on Jenson Button’s 2016 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are produced by referring to:

View race-by-race notes on Jenson Button

Australia – Button found himself snookered when McLaren took the curious decision to put him on super-softs from the restart. They lasted 12 laps before he pitted for a set of mediums on which he made little progress against other cars on the same rubber, with the exception of Nasr who he passed for 14th.

Bahrain – An encouraging third-quickest for McLaren on Friday only translated into 14th place on the grid. But the race was a case of what might have been: he was running within DRS range of Verstappen, who went on to finish sixth, when the Honda power unit failed.

China – One of few drivers to start the race on new super-soft tyres, Button headed for the pits when the Safety Car came out but lost time behind Hulkenberg. Like Alonso he couldn’t find the necessary pace on mediums, so he tried a run on super-softs at the end but still ended up following his team mate home.

Russia – Eighth on Friday, Button reckoned Q3 was possible for the team, and although he didn’t make it he was within a tenth of a second at a track which wasn’t ideal for the car. He didn’t get away well and was immediately passed by Alonso, falling to 15th. From there he climbed into the points, passing Sainz for the final place in the top ten.

Spain – Troubled by a loose rear on his car in qualifying and didn’t join Alonso in the final ten. However a rapid start put him in the hunt for points. Although he still found the car lacking grip he delivered nine place, passing Gutierrez close to the end.

Monaco – Two-tenths down on Alonso in Q2, Button started 13th. Despite struggling with constant rear locking he made a typically gutsy early switch to intermediates but was thwarted by Wehrlein running long on wets. He made the switch to slicks early as well and that lifted him ahead of Gutierrez and up to ninth at the flag.

Canada – Power unit problems in qualifying left him without the latest hardware in the race. His old unit then packed up, making this a wasted weekend.

Europe – His first qualifying effort went awry when he skidded off at turn 15 and his second was spoiled by traffic. The upshot was he failed to make it beyond Q1. However he started well, moving up to 15th as he passed several rivals on the outside of turn one, and jumped Nasr at the first pit stop to get on Alonso’s tail and ultimately deliver the result his team mate would have had.

Austria – Despite his Q2 slip-up Button grabbed a place in Q3 and then performed some of his trademark damp-track magic to qualify fifth ahead of both Red Bulls, the Williams pair and Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Penalties for other drivers then promoted him to third, and the surprises continued in the race when he moved up to second at the start and stayed there for six laps. He inevitably slipped back but sixth place was a fine result.

Britain – A rear wing problem kept him from making a second run in Q2 and he was knocked out by Kvyat. His pace was on a par with Alonso’s in the tricky conditions but the Honda’s lack of grunt kept him stuck behind Bottas in the second stint and lost him a place to fresh-tyred Massa towards the end.

Hungary – Might have out-qualified Alonso had it not been for the yellow flags which appeared after his team mate’s mistake. His race was ruined by multiple technical problems and, to make things even worse, a penalty for receiving assistance on the radio.

Germany – Had to visit hospital due on Friday to have some debris removed from his eye, but despite that setback he qualified ahead of his team mate. A rapid start moved him up to ninth place and impressively he had gained another position by the end of the race. Button eked out better tyre life on the super-softs than Alonso managed in the closing laps and grabbed an excellent eighth when Bottas hit trouble.

Belgium – Was very pleased to reach Q3 and split the Williams drivers in qualifying. He got away from the line well but was held up at La Source and slipped to 12th, and was then rammed out of the race at Les Combes by Wehrlein.

Italy – Wasn’t entirely happy with his run in Q2, admitting “Fernando pulled out a little bit on me”. He was elbowed wide on lap and dropped to the back of the field from where he did well to recover to 12th at one of McLaren’s weaker tracks with better pace than Alonso after the first stint.

Singapore – Clipped a barrier during Q2 and picked up a puncture which ended his bid for a place in the top ten. He got caught up in the Hulkenberg crash at the start which broke his front wing and left him with other damage which couldn’t easily be repaired. Rising brake temperatures later forced him out.

Japan – Friday set off alarm bells about the car’s performance, though the team had suspected they would be particularly weak at Honda’s home circuit. The team hadn’t planned to fit Button’s new power unit this weekend, but he wanted them to do it on Friday evening. After he went out in Q1 the new unit was put in for the race, meaning he started last. He couldn’t make any progress with the hard tyres on his car initially, but two stints on softs got him up to 18th, setting the ninth-fastest lap on the way.

Malaysia – Frustrated by traffic in Q1 but a fine effort in the subsequent sessions gained him a place in Q3 and put him ahead of Massa’s Williams, which was a bonus. He briefly held fourth on the first lap before others passed him. But while the VSC made Alonso’s race it spoiled Button, costing him the chance to claim positions back from the three-stop runners. He deserved to finish higher than he started.

United States – Was very unhappy at dropping out in Q1 after doing his first run on softs, meaning his final effort on super-softs would be decisive, only to be held up by Palmer. Starting on super-soft tyres looked like a bold move but he gained places on lap one and then passed Gutierrez for good measure. It was somewhat inevitable that Perez would come past him by the end of the race, but ninth was a fair reward.

Mexico – Made a breakthrough with the car’s set-up on Friday but was still struggling to get the tyres working in qualifying. The result was clear to see in his sector times: much of the gap to Alonso was at the beginning of the lap where his tyres were still coming in. Sunday was better, his opportunistic pass on Sainz one of the race’s best, but he spent most of the time stuck behind other cars.

Brazil – This was a horrible weekend for Button with no obvious upside. Having been tenth in the warmer conditions on Friday he dropped out in Q1, prompting him to claimed “there’s definitely something not right”. He was still mystified after coming in last in the race.

Abu Dhabi – A power unit glitch forced an early halt to his running in first practice and delayed his start to the second session while the unit was replaced. In qualifying he found himself needing ever more front downforce but ran out of wing angle and dropped out in Q2, complaining of the inevitable understeer. His race ended early after he clouted a kerb and his suspension broke.

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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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68 comments on “2016 F1 season driver rankings #14: Button”

  1. Fair position I think – shame though, given that it was his last season – I’ll definitely miss Button racing next year

  2. He was once a great driver and to some degree still is. It’s no secret he has lost the passion for his craft. He is wise to hang it up now. JB had the career many can only dream of. One of F1’s best if you ask me.

    1. Gordon Hetherington
      8th December 2016, 14:43

      Journeyman driver who lucked into a Championship. I can’t remember an occasion when Button outperformed the car. Mostly I remember JB’s incessant whining – “can’t find the grip”; “can’t find the balance”…

      1. Spa in his first season

      2. Did he also out luck Lewis Hamilton In scoring more points than him??

        1. @swanson but which championship was 3 years long ? Buttom scored more points over their time together yes, but he was beat in 2 of the 3 championship years in both races and qualifying. Points over three seasons is actually pretty meaningless especially when you work out there was only around 25 between them over three years. That’s one mechanical DNF.. no doubt button had issues too but I remember a few races where Hamilton was leading only to have a mechanical failure. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any for Jenson ? If you keep it to actual championships and look at everything but the 3 year points Hamilton was the better driver.

        2. And to add what Tom has mentioned, Hamilton won more races than Button, had more pole positions than Button, also beat Button in qualifying. Button only had 2 more podiums than Hamilton, if my memory serves me right. I don’t understand why only Lewis and Button are compared over three seasons and this comparision is not made for any other champion team mates?

        3. LOL…the 3-year season emerges again…hahaha!

          1. Canada 2011 (one of Jenson’s finest moments ever) felt like 3 years at the time…

          2. Agreed it’s tiresome, scoreboard reads 2-1 in favour of Hamilton we count seasons as the measure, anyway if want to play numbers games correcting for mechanical reliability issues puts Hamilton ahead…..

            As much as I love Jenson he has retired at the right time, he was walloped by Alonso this year.

      3. Journeyman driver who lucked into a Championship

        A journeyman driver who beat 3 World Champions during his career – Villeneuve, Hamilton and Alonso.

        A journeyman driver who won the WDC in the VERY FIRST car he was given that was capable of winning it.

        Not bad for a ‘journeyman’ driver!

        1. I disagree he beat Hamilton @nick101 Button lost 2 of the 3 championship years and those are what counts. Had those been for the actual WDC would you say a 1 time champion beat the 2 time champion over the three years ?

          1. Tom – why are those what counts. Are you suggesting that Button didn’t win a world championship in 2009 because by some arbitrary method that year doesn’t count because he didn’t win it lots of other years? Button beat Hamilton in 2011, he beat Alonso in 2015 and he beat everyone in the world in 2009. Hardly a ‘journeyman’ driver.

          2. Of course I’m not suggesting that @jerseyF1. Button is a very solid driver who I’ve never called a “journeyman”. The reason they count is simply because 2 is more than 1. I’m not saying Button didn’t beat Hamilton in 2011, I just disagree with those who say Button beat Hamilton over their three years together as Hamilton beat Button 2-1 in the actual Championship standings.

      4. Gordon you speak wise words, Button was the softest WC since D Hill..who along with DC was given a leg up by Frank and Head, l wonder how long these drivers would of stayed in F1 if they started or stayed re “D Hill” at the rear of the grid? Hill didn’t get his leg up based on his rookie year performance.

        When Frank was a power house in F1 he had the luxury of giving young Brit lads leg ups not like now. having to take the rookies father’s money and hopefully getting some talent with it.

        1. @nosehair Frank didn’t give Jenson a leg up. He only drove for Williams in his rookie year, moving on to other teams and even being involved in a tussle between two (works) teams over his services. Over his career he has driven for five different works outfits (although two were Honda works outfits) and won races with three different teams. I think it’s fair to say that he is not of the same caliber as Schumacher/Hamilton/Senna etc but to call his championship soft is unfair.

          Villeneuve’s championship, on the other hand…

          1. Frank had mutton under contract and tried him in the williams and he didnt shine, if he had of he would of stayed in the willy

      5. @Gordon Hetherington – what a load of absolute RUBBISH! Just Canada 2011 proves how wrong you are and that you have an axe to grind. Then there’s the small matter how close he ran the Man Who Walks on Water in 2010-12 and actually scored a few more points than He did… Crawl back under your rock you miserable internet troll!

    2. Agree with you Nigel, and completely disagree with Gordon Hetherington!
      A lot of his team mates were superstars, and he acquitted himself very well.
      Bye JB, and hello Vandoorne.

  3. i think he began the season motivated, but struggled to remain positive

  4. Button reached the position courtesy of a top-drawer qualifying effort on a damp track and went on to bring his MP4-31 home third.

    Maybe i read it wrong.. but Button was 8e place in Austria.

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      8th December 2016, 14:39

      3rd in qualy I read this.

      1. He wasn’t third in quali either though, he was fifth in quali and sixth in the race

        1. Qualified fifth but started third after Rosberg’s and Vettel’s penalties.

        2. He was 3rd in qualy after all the penalties were applied to Vettel and Nico. In the race he did indeed finish 6th, so the paragraph should probably read ‘bring his MP4-31 home sixth after starting third’ or some such.

  5. I think trying to make the best of the pretty much hopeless McLaren for the past two seasons got to Jenson in the end. Where he felt the car was competitive he could make the most of it.

    He won’t have this problem in the Mercedes next year though ;-))

    1. Hopeless McLaren for the past TWO seasons???

      You mean the last FOUR seasons!

  6. He also lost a great opportunity to score points at Hungary, also with technical problems, but he was also overshadowed by Alonso there.

    In hindsight, he should’ve left in 2014… we all wanted him to stay and we didn’t realize how much in deep mud Honda and McLaren were back then, but for all the effort, there was little reward on a career that had already seen the best of him.

    1. there was little reward on a career that had already seen the best of him

      The simple fact of the matter is this – everyone is saying that his career was on the wind down and that his best was done – but that is PURELY down to the crap cars he’s been driving!

      Do you think that anyone would seriously be saying that had he been driving the Mercedes for the last 3 seasons instead of Rosberg? Of course not. Had Button been driving the Merc instead of Rosberg he would have had 10-15-20 more wins to his name! Rosberg is a much faster qualifier than Button, but Button is by far the superior racer to Rosberg.

      As a huge Button fan I feel UTTERLY robbed that his career has ended driving crap cars – once again! He finally get’s into a good car with the Brawn, and then 3 good years in the McLaren and it felt like he was finally hitting his stride – and then McLaren decide to self detonate with the shocker that was the 2013 McLaren and it went downhill from there!

      I would absolutely LOVE to see him in the Mercedes for one final year in a decent car!!

  7. Had to drive a mediocre McLaren and did so purely on routine, not on enthusiasm.

  8. Overrated driver who was 1) lucky to be with Brawn at the right time and 2) lucky to have a fading “number 2” as his team mate.

    Good but never great, a bit like Rosberg but a step below again.

    All the best to him.

    1. A step below Rosberg!!! When the McLaren was good he gave Lewis a harder time then Rosberg.

      1. Really? When? I remember Lewis in 2012 bringing his car to the podium for most of the year while Jenson was lucky to get in the points. Even having to revert Jenson’s car to Hamilton’s spec because he was so lost. Maybe we’re recalling things differently. So out of courtesy, I’m sending you the wiki link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Formula_One_season

        Then in 2013, Jenson leading the team was one of the worst seasons McLaren has ever had, and in 2014 with the new regulations (the best engine in the field) an even worse season.

        1. If all of this is true how come he obtained more points than Lewis over the three seasons they were together. It cannot all have been down to luck.

          I like Rosberg but Jenson is easily his equivalent. You forget that Rosberg has had the best car over the last three seasons. Jenson has not had a decent, competitive car since 2012. He has with the exception of two or three seasons always had mediocre cars to drive and has therefore achieved a lot.

          Obviously this was not one of his better seasons and I think he began to lose his motivation in the end.

          1. Phil are we doing aggregates now for points for Jenson? Hamilton scored more in 2010 and 2012. Jenson in 2011. Here’s a stat: Jenson has 15 wins in 17 years of F1. Lewis has 31 wins the last 3 years.

          2. Well that’s a bit of a strawman. How many bad cars has Jenson had, and how many bad cars has Hamilton had?

          3. @ Jay Alonso has 17 race wins in the last decade compared to Nico Rosberg’s 20 in the last 3 seasons, presumably that’s proof that Rosberg is better than Alonso?

        2. In 2012, Hamilton had 7 podiums to Jenson’s 6, so saying that he could hardly get into the points while Hamilton was on the podium most the time is a terrible argument too. Additionally, Hamilton finished between 8th and 10th 4 times, and Button did 3 times, so he was hardly more “lucky to get into the points”. The fact you had the wikipedia link where I got this from in your post, yet you still had wrong information…

          And did you actually blame Jenson for 2013 and 2014 being bad years, rather than the fact McLaren couldn’t muster a good car? It’s not exactly his fault if the car’s no good.

          Some people…

          1. Wiki is not telling the context of the season at all.

            Jenson spent the first half well down the field in qualifying. Right at the back actually.

            Look where Lewis was.

            Every time Lewis Finished (The key word) He was at the front and almost always in front of Jenson. Unless his pit stops failed which happened with stunning regularity.

            Furthermore Lewis had numerous DNF while leading or on the way to it – Singapore or example or Brazil – handing the win to Jenson. Imagine that had not happened. No more talk of this three year rubbish…

            I have read a very well crafted and reviewed article that calculated lost 130-160 points that season compared to very few for Jenson.

            There is little doubt he should have won that year just as many feel Alonso should have and I imagine that was a major part of the Mercedes move decision.

            Perhaps disappointment that Macca had spent so much of the season resource on trying to get Jenson up to scratch that his pit stops and car reliability were affected. And of little seemingly interest.

            That year was the start of the decline in Macca for me.

        3. Did you even look at that link before posting? The results table shows they ended 2012 just 2 points apart, with Jenson having only 1 podium less than Lewis.

          1. I think we can safely say the negative comments in this thread have been rubbished by the facts.

            I love the one about Lewis’ wins. Not to put down Lewis but there was a critical factor here. It’s called a Mercedes.

          2. Phil, according to Jenson Lewis made a mistakegoing to Mercedes so you can’t have it both ways.

        4. The only thing Button is good at is playing politics,especially against Lewis he play the tribal card in the team against Lewis.I
          n 2012 Button went 6 races scoring 6 points while Lewis was taking poles,and wining races,but Witmarsh was fixated on getting Button to beat Lewis so instead of pushing the car in the direction where Lewis was showing it was performing,they spent months on an alternate development path with Button which failed and they had to return to Lewis development path.
          Whats insidious about that is all they wanted was petty narrative that Button beat lewis with his intelligence by creating his own development path…..whats worst is that once Lewis left Witmarsh double down on that strategy,by scraping the year ending fastest car to make a new car geared toward Button so the called driving and again to have the narrative that now its his team now and he has develop the new car……remember he said in 2013 that spent all winter with engineers and that was the Best car mclaren has made,,,,but when it turned out to be a Dud he went quiet……………..Those decisions are the catalyst for the down fall of Mclaren…

          In retaliation for Mercedes taking Lewis Ron hastily switched to Honda….so you can draw a straight line from Button politicking to drive Lewis out to the down fall of Mclaren…….Against Alonso his tribal politking was neutralize and without team actively trying to hinder Alonso his true form was exposed.

  9. Button proved to be quality material on years like 2004, 2006 and 2011 even more than the year of the championship.

    Winning 6 in 7 races than doing enough for just 2 podiums on the 9 remaining races wasn’t the best showcase one could want. But on these 3 seasons he was competitive made few mistakes and was among the best most of the time with cars that weren’t the class of the field.

    But yes, he stayed for too long. Vandoorne is turning 25 next year, one of the older rookies for quite some time, because Jenson refused to go. And Honda to let him go.

  10. I can’t see Magnussen anywhere….. 13th would be way too high for me he’s been one of the worst drivers this year.

    1. @lolzerbob And how’s that? Hadn’t he out-qualified and out=scored his team-mate? This is an aggregate of the whole season, remember? Not just a snapshot of the last few races

  11. I do feel Button was for the most part giving a pretty good performance in that McLaren. Honestly I think only 9 ish drivers on the grid could have done a better job and unfortunately for Button one of them was Alonso on the other side of the garage. That was the 7th, maybe 8th best car.

    1. 9 wish drivers = half the grid. Lol

      1. That’s still the top half of the grid.

        I wish I could say only 9 people in the world were better than me at something.

  12. If Lewis is one of the best then so is Button. There is no doubt he kept pace with him over their years at McLaren.

    1. Wrong Hamilton beat him 2 1 in seasons who cares of the more points over 3 years. He would not even have come close if Ham good reliability, Ham in 12 beat JB by 2 measly points he was way better. He lapped Button one year I believe in Canada he won and Button got lapped with no issues. Also in Buttons best year he never even won more races. Ham beat him in qually every year and when both cars finished Ham finished ahead like 31 17 I believe. Rosberg actually beta Ham over 1 lap someing JB could never dream of doing even if it was rookie Hamilton. It is why I hope Alo or JB get the Merc driver so Nico could get some respect he is by far the driver I feared the most in qually as Ham teammate.

  13. Button and Mclaren deserve each other. Both got cocky at the end of 2012 and its been a match made in hell every since. Both winless in over 4 years with no end in sight to the misery. Jensen’s delusional apologists will cling to the bogus “he can help DEVELOP” the car claims which have no basis in reality.

    1. A bit Angry aren’t we and with anger comes Bias.

  14. Certainly #1 Gentelman of F1.

  15. It’s a bit off topic but I have heard it said somewhere, and possibly even by Jenson himself, that he was approached by Ferrari at some point in his career. I would have liked to have seen him in a Ferrari at some point.

    I wonder when this was. Before the 2010 season when they went for Alonso (JB was WDC), or before the 2014 season when Raikkonen replaced Massa. Any thoughts?

    1. 2014. Ferrari wouldn’t have wanted Button in 2010

  16. Jenson Button….nice bloke.
    Overrated driver.

    1. @rantingmrp Overrated? How? He wasn’t ever considered at the very top level like Alonso or Hamilton. But he’s easily up there in the 2nd tier, well above Rosberg all things considered

      1. Rosberg is a poor driver. He should not be mentioned in any serious F1 discussion.

  17. Hope he or Alo get the Merc drive(imagine qually lol), they would have only had a shot in 16 through bad start lottery even Nico would of creamed them in qually let alone Lewis. Rosberg the only driver I feared as Hamiltons teammate.

    1. Another parrot. HAM was about 0,15 seconds faster than BUT in quali in a strectchy 3 year spell together in good cars. Difference between HAM and ALO in quali isn’t even worth mentioning.
      And starts are no lottery, bc else HAM wouldn’t have put some extra work into it in the final third of the season (and greatly improved) and it wouldn’t have been a trademark of ALO.

  18. Well, Merc might just hire him for a year as a placeholder. And then he just might give the other guy in the garage a run for his money. Again.

  19. #14 is too high, if you consider the guys just at the bottom. Button is overrated, I would put him 14th but considering that both Manors and Massa are below JB I would rank him lower.

  20. I hope @keithcollantine doesn’t mind this:


    I have been a big fan of that site for years. The author creates a data driven ranking trying to correct for differences in car performance using statistical analysis. While it has it’s flaws, it’s always and interesting read imho. Also the ranking to me seems pretty spot on!

  21. Fascinating.

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