Jenson Button: the driver debates

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Jenson Button, Honda, Barcelona, 2008, 470150

The subject of this week’s driver debate is Jenson Button, whose career has had more ups and downs than a malfunctioning elevator.

How do you rate Jenson Button – and will he ever win another race?

Jenson Button was a Formula Three driver in 1999 but the following season was catapulted into a drive with one of Britain’s most historic teams: Williams. It came about after Williams cut their contract with Alessandro Zanardi a year short, and needed a driver for one year until Juan Pablo Montoya came along.

Button did a very respectable job in his first season, scoring points in his second race (becoming the youngest driver ever to do so until Sebastian Vettel last year) and finishing an impressive fourth in the rain at the Hockenheimring. He qualified third on his first visit to the mighy Spa-Francorchamps.

A disastrous season at the declining Benetton followed, although he recovered the following season as the team became Renault. There was no place for him at the team any more though, as Flavio Briatore dropped him for his own man Fernando Alonso (which, you have to say, worked out alright for them).

So Button ended up at BAR where he’s been ever since, the team becoming Honda in 2006. He chased Jacques Villeneuve into retirement in his first season and came of age in 2004 with a string of podium finishes, though never able to beat the rampant Ferraris to claim that elusive first win.

It didn’t happen in 2005 either – the team were nowhere in the first half of the season and thrown out of three races for running with illegal fuel tanks.

Finally in 2006 after 115 attempts Button scored an opportunistic but badly deserved win in the rain at Hungary from 14th on the grid. He was assisted by Alonso’s retirement that day, but Button had been catching him at the time and we were robbed of what might have been a thrilling battle between the pair.

The season ended on a high. But 2007 was a disaster the likes of which Button could not possibly have imagined. The unpredictable and dog-slow RA107 made a mockery of his talent, and he scraped together just four points by the season’s end – though still four more than team mate Rubens Barrichello.

Is he a great talent struggling to escape inadequate machinery? It’s easy to assume that the best drivers automatically find their way into the best cars, but that isn’t always true.

However, Button didn’t exert the kind of cast-iron dominance over team mates like of Jarno Trulli early in his career that would have made him a ‘must-sign’ driver for McLaren or Ferrari.

The embarrassment of the two ‘Button-gate’ years of 2004 and 2005 (when Williams and BAR squabbled over his contract) has now receded into memory. Whatever debt of service he owed the team for trying to dump them during their excellent 2004 season it he has now surely paid for with the purgatory he suffered last year.

With Ross Brawn on board it’s time for Honda to give Button the car he deserves so he can go racing at the front again.

What do you think of Jenson Button?

Jenson Button biography

Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli, Spa-Francorchamps, 2000, 470313

55 comments on “Jenson Button: the driver debates”

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  1. Both of them had great strategy partnered with it.  In particular, the 2003 US GP had more than a bit of luck – the rain fell right before their first pitstop – so they made 1 less stop.

    Button had other chances to win in 2004 – like San Marino, Germany (to some extent), and especially Italy – yet it didn’t quite happen.  Now, if Michael Schumacher was driving that BAR (especially in the 2 Italian races), would he have just let those race leads slip away from him so easily?  I wouldn’t think so.

    "That something extra" is an intangible.  How else would you describe it?  Jenson looks very good, yet… you just feel something seems missing with him… that something that you feel in drivers like Alonso, Raikkonen, and even Hamilton.  You can’t quite describe it, you just feel it.

  2. Michael Counsell
    30th April 2008, 21:33

    I wouldn’t describe it as anything, because its meaningless but then again no one here is really describing Jenson Button’s ability because it is beyond our capability to truly compare drivers because we know so little about what they do.  All anyone really does is pick favourites and try to argue a case for them.

  3. Ok, Michael Counsell, there are two choices here:

    a. you work for Jenson’s PR team


    b. you are a real Jenson fanatic, bordering on the deluded

    All the stats you wrote are nothing but clutching at straws, Jenson has won 1 race in his career and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was it. He will never drive for a top team unless Honda somehow manage to get their act together, which I doubt, even with Ross Brawn at the helm as the Japanese will manage to cock that up with their way of working.

  4. "but surely, Button should’ve managed to win in 2004 when lesser cars managed to take wins, right?"
    Well you could argue that. However Monaco he finished 2nd to Trulli. Trulli took pole, Button 2nd on the grid. Typical Monaco result.
    Belgium – Although a bad qualifying he got up to 5th and then suffered a puncture that blew the tire crashing him into a Minardi.
    Brazil – Engine failure after 3 laps.
    Schumacher only needed 2 points more than Barrichello by the time the Belgium GP had come around. Maybe a reason not to push too hard in that race?
    Some years there is only 1 team that is a "Top Team" in F1. Not fun for the fans, but a great achievement by the team.
    I’m always hopeful that we can finally have 3 teams with both drivers winning. That means BMW have to step up a bit more in performance. I wonder how far back I have to look in the results to see a season like that?
    I think Jensons only hope for another win is with Honda, I can’t see Ferrari \ McLaren hiring him. Doubt we’ll see that next win, but the with the new rules for 2009 you never can tell.

  5. Michael Counsell
    1st May 2008, 13:30

    You don’t need to be a fan or work for his PR team to select some statistics and comment on them.  If someone was to put forward some kind of argument criticising his driving, or ability in testing  it would be fair enough, but they haven’t.  The main arguments being that he is overrated and good,  but not quite good enough.  Perhaps some of the key questions are.

    Is he fast enough qualifying and in races?
    Does he make too many mistakes?
    Can he overtake well enough?
    Can he defend his position?
    Can he cope with changing conditions?
    Can he perform under pressure?
    Can he set up and develop a car?

    If he can tick all the boxes, he can keep his team happy and achieve desirable results whether he’s in a top team or not.

  6. "You don’t need to be a fan or work for his PR team to select some statistics and comment on them."
    Oh you don’t have to, but the likelyhood is that you are one of the two as noone would go through that many stats and present them in such a positive light if there wouldn’t be the motivation it behind it to do just that.
    You can do that, of course, and if you work for his PR team, then it’s a job well done I say!
    Yes, he ticks all the boxes for a team like Honda and no, he doesn’t for a top team, never has, never will.

  7. Michael Counsell
    4th May 2008, 9:09

    It wasn’t too difficult just used wikipedia and I pretty much knew what I was gonna write anyway.  I’m a big fan of F1 and could pull stats like that out for pretty much anyone…  My only motivation is due to people using poor arguments to back up some kind of dislike.

  8. The Leicester Boy
    23rd June 2008, 11:47

    Let’s just wait and see what happens next year as it will be a complete reset for all the teams and with Brawn Honda may be a leading team. But more importantly 2010 may be there best position and so we just have to pray. Hamilton is sooooo overated by ITV and Steve Rider the mic shaker with Hamilton being in the first or second best car with Jenson at the minute being in the eighth or ninth. Also the ITV coverage is always negative so come on BBC next year be nice.

  9. If Button was anything other than british you’d be talking him off as rubbish and you guys know it.

  10. Sebastian – Most people in these comments have taken the time to explain what they think of Button so I don’t think it’s fair to write off those who give him credit as being simple-minded jingoists. After all, it’s not as if you’ve taken the time to share your point of view.

  11. Jingoists!……nice word Keith! :-)

  12. Who can say that Jenson has not done well for the place he has been and lets hope that the Testing on Wednesday is right and that Hamilton is at the back for a couple of seasons. He has never lost it but has been in rubbish machinary. Role on 09 with Brawn G.P. fighting for both championships as they have two good drivers but Button is sooooo much better than Rubeans.

  13. hmmm….that was an interesting read.

  14. I think he’ll become the 2009 world Champion lol.

  15. Hey there..Great Site you have here! Just wanna leave a short info to suit your needs about how you can blow the girl’s head at the next Barbeque-Party!

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