McLaren ’50 in 50′: Jenson Button

Jenson Button is McLaren’s most recent race winner in two ways. He won last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, making him the last McLaren driver to stand on the top step of the podium. He is also the 19th driver to win a race for McLaren and, unless Sergio Perez wins one of the last few races, he will remain the most recent race winner for them until next year at least.

Button joined McLaren in 2010, fresh off the back of his first world championship, which he won driving for Brawn GP. Button joined 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton at the team making it an all British, back-to-back champions line-up. Victor of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award in 1998, Button got his first taste of Formula One testing a McLaren in 1999. He became a race driver for Williams in 2000, giving him over a decade of experience in the sport.

Button’s route to Formula One is a standard one – started karting when he was young, and progressed through single seater championships. In 1991 he won all 34 races in the British Cadet Kart Championship, impressing from the get go. British Formula Fords was his first port of call in single seaters, and he won that in his debut year by 15 points. British Formula 3 followed and he finished the year in third place. He tested for McLaren and Prost and was involved in a shoot-out with Bruno Junqueira for a vacant seat at Williams.

Button finished eighth in his first year with Williams, finishing in the points on six occaions. Despite impressing, he was dropped by Williams in favour of Juan Pablo Montoya, so he joined Benetton. He had a lacklustre season in 2001 before finishing seventh in 2002. Button’s long relationship with Honda started when he joined BAR for 2003. He had his best season to date in 2004, finishing on the podium on ten occasions and scoring points in all but three races. He finished the year in third place – the closest challenger to the Ferrari duo of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. 2005 was so-so and at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, Button was awarded for all his perserverence over the years. He won in tricky conditions, ending his long spell without a win. He had to wait until 2009 to win again, however, but by that stage it was worth the wait.

After Honda pulled out of the sport, the team was bought and rebranded Brawn GP, with former Ferrari man Ross Brawn at the helm. With a major technical and regulation shake-up mixing the order up, Brawn GP and Red Bull Racing moved to the fore. Button won six of the first seven races in 2009, demonstrating the domination of Brawn GP. That proved to be all his victories for 2009 after the latter half of the season was spent consistently scoring points but not podiums. The early domination, however, was enough for Button to win the championship and Brawn GP, with Barrichello’s added success, became the constructors champions.

Button joined McLaren in 2010, replacing Heikki Kovalainen. He ranks joint eighth in terms of all time wins list, winning eight races (joint with Nika Lauda). In 2013 he became the de facto number one after Hamilton’s departure. He is regarded a consistent pair of hands, after his vast amount of experience. He finished seventh in his first race for McLaren but won in Australia, the second race of the year. He was in contention for the championship but ultimately fell at the last hurdle and finished fifth. In 2011 he came second to a dominant Sebastian Vettel and finished fifth in 2012. He has started 72 races for McLaren and has eight wins, 17 additional podiums, and 58 points finishes in total. 2013 has been a difficult year for the team and as yet the podium has alluded them. McLaren have not officially confirmed their 2014 drivers, but it is widely considered Button will remain. He is the most experienced current driver on the grid and, with another regulation shake-up and new engines coming into play, the McLaren team will hopefully progress to challenging at the front once again.

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