Towards the end of this year’s Formula 1 season, Jenson Button announced that he was about to retire. Today, we’re looking back at his impressive motorsports career.
Jenson Button – The Early Years
Born in the Somerset town of Frome, in January 1980, Jenson Button is the youngest child – and only son – of the late John Button, the British rallycross driver, and his first wife, Simone. Jenson became interested in racing at an early age.
When he was ten years old, he became the British Cadet Kart Champion and managed to defend his title the following year by winning all 34 races. A three-time British Open Kart Champion, he also became the youngest ever European Super A Champion, and received the Ayrton Senna Memorial Cup in 1997.
From Karts to Cars – The Road to Formula 1
Jenson Button made the move to racing cars when he was 18, driving in the British Formula Ford Championship for Haywood Racing. He won the coveted motorsports trophy and then triumphed at the Formula Ford Festival. As a result of his achievements, he was voted 1998 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year.
The following year, Button joined Promatecme and competed in the British Formula Three Championship. He ended the season in third position, the highest placed rookie driver. He went on to finish fifth in the Malboro Masters and second in the Macau Grand Prix.
From Williams to Honda – Button’s Early F1 Career
Jenson’s F1 journey began in 2000 when he beat Bruno Junquiera in a shoot-out for Alex Zanardi’s freshly-vacated Williams seat. He became the youngest ever Formula 1 points scorer in his second race but lost his seat at the end of the season.
In 2001, he moved to Benetton, but had a difficult season, finishing in seventeenth place in the Driver’s Championship. The following year, the team was taken over by Renault. Button finished the season in seventh but was replaced by Fernando Alonso.
Button moved to BAR, where he remained for three seasons. He faced a number of difficulties in his first season there, including a problematic relationship with his teammate, Jacques Villeneuve, and a serious crash in practice at Monaco. However, he consistently outperformed Villeneuve, who lost his seat before the last race of the season and was replaced by Takuma Sato.
In 2004, Button made it to the podium for the first time, having finished third in the Malaysian Grand Prix. He continued to race well throughout the year, claiming his first pole position in the San Marino Grand Prix, and finishing the season in third place overall.
Button decided to move back to Williams, but became involved in a contract dispute and was forced to remain at BAR for the 2005 season. Unfortunately, his remaining time there was fraught with problems. At the San Marino Grand Prix, although Button finished in third place, the stewards discovered that his car had a second fuel tank. Both BAR drivers were stripped of their points and banned for two races. Button eventually finished the season in ninth place.
Button was embroiled in another contract dispute at the end of the season, when he decided to stay with BAR, rather than moving to Williams. Eventually Williams released him from the pre-contract he had signed and BAR teamed him with Rubens Barrichello. Honda bought out BAR’s remaining shares in the team in October 2005.
Button stayed with Honda for three more seasons but, despite his best efforts, the car was consistently uncompetitive. In 2008, Honda announced that it was leaving F1 and Button faced the prospect of being seatless until former team principal, Ross Brawn, bought the team.
Jenson Button – Formula 1 World Champion and Beyond
The Mercedes-powered Brawn BGP 001 stood out from the start of the 2009 season and enabled Button to win six of the first seven races. One of the car’s key features was its controversial “double diffuser”, however, and once the other teams had designed their own versions, Brawn’s edge disappeared. Button had a bad run when the F1 machine returned to Europe, but managed to do enough to hold onto his lead. He clinched the World Championship at the Brazilian Grand Prix, winning the title with a race to spare.
At the end of 2009, Mercedes bought out Brawn and Button joined McLaren to partner Lewis Hamilton. He remained with the team for the following seven seasons, finishing fifth in the championship in 2010, second in 2011, fifth in 2012, ninth in 2013, eighth in 2014, sixteenth in 2015, and fifteenth in 2016. Now retired, he is still an ambassador for the team.
What are your favourite memories of Jenson Button’s F1 career? Leave a comment below.