With five wins and a third place from the first six races, Jenson Button has made one of the best starts to the world championship ever seen in F1.
His achievement equals Michael Schumacher’s in 2002, and is bettered only by Schumacher in 1994 and Nigel Mansell in 1992.
Button has won the Australian, Malaysian, Bahrain, Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix, and was third in China.
1992 and 1994: the best starts
These are the two occasions when drivers made a better start to the season:
1992: Nigel Mansell, Williams-Renault. Five wins (South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Spain and San Marino) and one second (Monaco)
1994: Michael Schumacher, Benetton-Ford. Five wins (Brazil, Pacific, San Marino, Monaco, Canada) and one second (Spain)
Mansell failed to finish the seventh race of the year in 1992 when he crashed during the Canadian Grand Prix.
Schumacher won the seventh race of 1994 (in France) but was disqualified from round eight (Britain) having finished second on the road.
Schumacher also started a season with five wins and a third place in 2002. He won in Australia, Brazil, San Marino, Spain and – infamously – Austria, and was second in Malaysia.
Button is also on course to match Schumacher’s victory record from 2004 of 12 wins from the first 13 races. But he has a long way to go to cement that record, needing another seven wins from the next seven rounds just to equal Schumacher’s tally.
More great championship starts
A deeper delve into the history book throws up some impressive feats of consistent winning from years when cars were not as reliable as they are today.
Jackie Stewart kicked off his 1969 championship-winning campaign with five wins (South Africa, Spain, Netherlands, France and Great Britain) and one DNF (Monaco).
Jim Clark did likewise in 1965, winning in South Africa, Belgium, France, Great Britain and the Netherlands. He didn’t enter round two at Monaco, as he was competing in the Indianapolis 500 (can you imagine any current F1 driver doing that?) but as he won the seventh round in Germany, Clark won the first six races he participated in.
In the 1950s the Indy 500 counted towards the drivers’ world championship, but most European contenders skipped it.
In 1952 Alberto Ascari won five of the first six races he competed in (Belgium, France, Great Britain, Germany and Netherlands) excluding the 500. He also won his seventh start, in Italy.
Similarly in 1954 Juan Manuel Fangio scored five wins (in Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland) and one fourth place (Great Britain) in the first six rounds he competed in. And he won his seventh start too, also in Italy.
Can Button win as many races as Schumacher did in 2004?
I wouldn’t put my money on it. The Brawn BGP001′s margin of superiority over the opposition is not as great as Schumacher’s Ferrari F2004 was five years ago.
And that’s probably a good thing – because otherwise the season might get very boring.