Jenson Button: Why losing a driver of Button's calibre would be one of F1's biggest travesties

Button appears to have won the battle with Kevin Magnussen to partner Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2015

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jenson Button looks set to be given the chance to go out with a bang after reports suggest McLaren have elected to retain the 2009 world champion over their up-and-coming youngster Kevin Magnussen for the 2015 season.

In keeping Button for a 16th season in F1, McLaren have finally made a big decision – but it is anything but a gamble.

Button has shown remarkable consistency over the season that resulted in him scoring over double the number of points that Magnussen managed, with the Dane seeing his raw pace blighted by accidents, errors and penalties due to his rash style of driving. Magnuseen will learn from his first season in the sports’ premier class and will hopefully iron out his weaknesses, but a driver of Button’s calibre should not be ignored when he is still performing at the highest level.

 

Having made his debut in 2000 with Williams, Button finished a commendable eighth in the Drivers’ Championship and securing his first points’ finish in only his second race in Brazil. Despite his promising start, he would leave Williams at the end of the year to join Benetton, before heading to BAR Honda for six years that can be best described as one hell of a rollercoaster ride.

Button-1.jpg
Button made his debut aged 20 in the 2000 Australian Grand Prix

Button-2.jpg
Button scored his first point in just his second ever race

A number of low points, involving an off-the-pace car particularly in 2007 and 2008, were trumped by his 2004 campaign in which he finished a commendable third in the championship and produced one of the battles of the decade at the San Marino Grand Prix with seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

Button-3.jpg
Button battles with Michael Schumacher in the 2004 San Marino Grand Prix

But it would not be until 2006 that he would break his F1 victory duck, winning a rain-hit Hungarian Grand Prix to spark mass celebrations among the Honda Racing Team and most noticeably, his late father John Button.

Button-5.jpg
Button celebrates with his late father John after his first ever victory

Button would come into his own in 2009. After a winter season that looked set to see Button’s time in F1 take a hiatus following the withdrawal of the Honda team, Ross Brawn salvaged a late deal to form Brawn GP and design the famous and highly controversial double diffuser that helped Button win six of the first seven grand prix’s to build a sizeable lead in the championship. But once the larger teams, namely Red Bull, introduced their own similar diffuser, Brawn’s dominance ended and Button could only manage an average of sixth in the final 10 races, although a crucial second in Monza set him up to secure the title in Brazil with a race to spare.

 

Surprisingly, Button elected to move to McLaren the following season and join 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton in an all-British line-up that would see support for the pair take off among the United Kingdom. Despite battling for race victories, both would miss out on the championship in the years to come as Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull began their period of dominance, although both Button and Hamilton maintained a positive working relationship as well as a friendship that is rarely seen between rivals these days – as identified by Hamilton’s frosty relationship with Nico Rosberg this season.

The 2011 Canadian Grand Prix was undoubtedly Button’s shining moment of his career to-date. Having collided with Hamilton early on and dropping to the back of the grid, Button would work his way back through the field, utilising his smooth driving style and excellent weather judgement to pull back to second with a handful of laps remaining.

Button-6.jpgVettel was in the lead but struggling to respond to the challenge of Button, and when the German ran wide and off the dry line, Button swooped past to claim an incredible victory that stands as one of the most dramatic races in F1 history.

He went on to finish second in 2011, but the demise of McLaren as a front-runner saw a number of changes among the backroom staff as well as the departure of Hamilton, meaning Button was the undoubted number one in the team when firstly Sergio Perez joined and this year Magnussen.

Button-7.jpg
The 2011 Canadian Grand Prix win went down as one of the best ever F1 races

The justification for retaining Button goes well beyond the track though. Button is a hugely liked character within the paddock and has a warming personality that has seen fans support him throughout his career – his gentlemanly persona only outperformed by his late father’s passionate excitement demonstrated during races.

If there had not been a grid slot reserved for Button next season, it would go down as one of the biggest travesties in the history of the sport given he has earned a shot at proving he can mix it up with the likes of Alonso. Who knows what the Honda engine could bring, McLaren could suddenly find themselves out in front much like the introduction of Brawn, but that can’t be a given nor is it expected.

Alonso-Button.jpg
Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will drive for McLaren next season

The one things fans will expect though is for Button to make the most of this reprieve and prove that despite being the oldest driver on the grid – he turns 35 next month – this old dog still has his bark.

Comments