2011 F1 driver rankings no.3: Jenson Button

2011 F1 season review

Jenson Button, McLaren, Suzuka, 2011

Celebrating his third win of 2011 at Suzuka

For the first few races of the year it seemed as though Jenson Button was running to the same form we’d seen in 2010: qualifying and finishing slightly behind his team mate.

But it quickly became apparent the balance of power had shifted at McLaren. Over the course of the season the pair were evenly matched in terms of who was ahead, but it was overwhelmingly Button, not Lewis Hamilton, who brought home the best results.

At season’s end his tally of podium finishes stood at 12 to Hamilton’s six, and Button had become the first of Hamilton’s team mates to beat him over a full season of F1 (although Fernando Alonso came very close in 2007).

The keys to Button’s advantage were twofold: first, he lacked Hamilton’s propensity for sticking his car in the scenery (or, more often, Felipe Massa).

Beat team mate in qualifying 6/19
Beat team mate in race 7/14
Races finished 17/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 445/975

Second – and most importantly – he was usually able to get better performance out of his tyres. This was not often the case in qualifying, where Hamilton exerted his usual advantage, but regularly so in the races.

This was first apparent in Malaysia, where Button finished second after making one pit stop fewer than Hamilton. This tended to give Button a handy advantage in the races, though not always. In Turkey his tyres went off towards the end of his final stint and he was passed by Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

As we saw last year, Button seems to have a sixth sense in mixed weather conditions and he was in stunning form in Canada and Hungary. His furious pace in drying conditions at Montreal allowed him to take a shock win after pressuring Sebastian Vettel into a mistake on the final lap. This came after he’d fallen to the back of the field due to an earlier penalty.

In Hungary it was a straight fight between the McLaren team mates and it was Hamilton who cracked, spinning away his advantage and compounding his mistake with a late switch to intermediate tyres which the canny Button avoided.

Jenson Button, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2011

Button overcame Hamilton to win in Hungary

By the second half of the season Button decisively had the upper hand. Without consecutive retirements at Silverstone and the Nurburgring due to technical reasons, his advantage over Hamilton would have been even greater.

After that, he was on the podium at eight of the final nine rounds. That included a nip-and-tuck win over Alonso and Vettel at Suzuka.

Vettel’s retirement in Abu Dhabi might have offered the chance for another win had Button not spent the race wrestling with a KERS fault. Under the circumstances he did extraordinarily well to salvage third – Martin Whitmarsh called his drive “absolutely storming”.

Many people – myself included – doubted Button would be able to beat Hamilton at McLaren. He deserves full credit not just for his achievement this year, but for taking on a fellow world champion in the same team in the first place.

He’s already reaping the awards for his efforts with a three-year McLaren contract extension announced in October.

F1 Fanatics on Jenson Button

His best year by far. He is one of the most intelligent drivers in the field, and it became his biggest weapon this year, always knowing when to push, when to save the equipment, when to relinquish and when to attack. He won over Hamilton convincingly with two mechanical retirements to his team-mate?s none, and could have been a serious contender if the car was a bit faster.

Who expected him to beat Hamilton by almost two race wins’ worth of points? Exceptional race pace.

Jenson Button, McLaren, Montreal, 2011

Button snatched victory on the last lap in Canada

One of the best seasons by Button. In the second half of the season he almost beat Vettel in terms of points. If it wasn?t for the British and German Grands Prix then he would have been a lot closer.

Really stepped up this year. His previous weakness (his qualifying) has been much improved on, although still not perfect he more than made up for it with his determination, cunning, overtaking prowess and attention to detail.

No-one thought he?d beat Hamilton, but he did, and did it in style: His win at Canada is one of the best drives I?ve ever seen and I?ll remember it for a long, long time.
Dan Thorn

Able to capitalise on his team mate?s downturn in form with some epic drives this year. Canada surely has to be one of the best F1 drives of all time. Hungary and Japan were exceptional too. Unlucky not to add to those wins at Monaco.

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

2011 F1 season review

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107 comments on 2011 F1 driver rankings no.3: Jenson Button

  1. He won over Hamilton convincingly with two mechanical retirements to his team-mate’s none

    Didn’t Lewis retire in Brazil? I believe he had a gearbox problem.

  2. magon4 (@magon4) said on 15th December 2011, 14:00

    Beat team mate in qualifying 6/19
    Beat team mate in race 7/14
    Races finished 17/19
    Laps spent ahead of team mate 445/975

    This shows not only that he had a tough team mate, it also shows who is actually better… but I still agree with Button in front of Hamilton this year.

  3. OOliver said on 15th December 2011, 14:18

    Jenson cannot extract the maximum from a car, and this is more so during qualifying.
    Statistically he out qualified Hamilton 6 times out of 19. That is just statistics. Keen followers of the sport will realise that could probably have been only 3 or 4.

    He was ahead massively in the points, but an accurate performance metrix would factor in penalties, retirements and team ineptitude.

    Congratulations still to all the Jenson larger drinkers.

    • Dobin1000 (@dobin1000) said on 15th December 2011, 15:45

      Team ineptitude would make no difference, being as they both are part of the same inept team.

    • dirgegirl (@dirgegirl) said on 15th December 2011, 17:29

      Should the FIA rejig the points system again then? It was my understanding that penalties *are* part of the performance metrics in that they prevent people who break the rules from benefitting. No idea how one would go about factoring in team ineptitude. What a silly idea.

      Oh, and mine’s a 2005 Gigondas, not a “larger”.

    • Gearbox may be down to the team… but running ever so often into other cars on track and other such silliness, is Lewis’s own follies. Lewis is a good driver, let us see if he gets better, or next year gets the better of him. It is never fun to put someone down, but Lewis had it relatively easy so far. Next year will be the real test and we’ll see what he’s made of.

  4. Totally agree with the top 3 rankings. Button and alonso may have been close for 2nd, but taking qualy performances into account it has gt to be alonso ahead of button in the ranking. Alonso gt the maximum out of his car in majority of the qualy sessions while button didn’t. Team m8 comparisons in qualy shows that story. Don’t get me wrong though as I think button did a superb job this year. Kudos to the top 3 al deserved world champs and class acts.

  5. Paulocreed (@paulocreed) said on 15th December 2011, 15:23

    I also think Jenson deserves credit for his achievements this year. I’d probably go as far fetched to say he’s the “Prost” of this generation of F1.

  6. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 15th December 2011, 15:41

    Button got a deserved third this year. I wonder how much the balance of power has tipped in McLaren after this season. Will he be seen as a smart, safe, fast and consistent pair of hands compared to his team mate? Will the car be developed just a touch more with his driving style in mind?

  7. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 15th December 2011, 15:54

    I hope this year finally showed how good Button is. Many people (me included) thought his 2009 championship was just because of the car, and his couple wins last year were just luck, but I think I’m finally starting to see a pattern here: Jenson is actually a good driver.

  8. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 15th December 2011, 15:57

    Without consecutive retirements at Silverstone and the Nurburgring due to technical reasons, his advantage over Hamilton would have been even greater.

    It really does highlight how much better he was this year.

    I love Jenson for so many reasons. First of all; he’s quiet and kind of slipped under the radar in his first races for McLaren when everyone expected him to be beaten by Hamilton. Deep down, I think I was one of those people that doubted he had it in him to beat Lewis, but I refused to admit it to anyone even if it was just my naivety.

    Secondly, he salvages wins/podiums out of nothing. He barely ever qualifies on the front row, but he somehow manages to beat Lewis nearly every time simply through outsmarting him. Lewis has the pace, but he can’t control it. Jenson is more balanced, in my opinion, and the driver I’d choose over Hamilton if I wanted consistently good driving.

    And then there’s the fact that he’s one of the most likeable characters to have ever driven in F1. He’s funny, witty, and always seems to be happy when interviewed. I don’t see how anyone could dislike Jenson and that’s no accident.

    Oh, I also named my cat after him! :P

    • JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 15th December 2011, 16:31

      100% agree. Could not agree more to that comment whatsoever.

      …Apart from the cat, I didn’t name my cat Jenson, nor do I have a cat lol.

    • Guccio (@concalvez00) said on 15th December 2011, 17:25

      Don’t exaggerate now, don’t forget that Witmarsh favors Button over Hamilton!, the first half of the season Button was nowhere near Hamilton and by the way, Button only ends up in front of Hamilton when Hamilton has problems etc. Button is a nice guy but next year the hierarchy will be restored, also noticed how Witmarsh and co. messed up Hamiltons race with wrong strategy such as in Malaysia, Monaco, Great Britain, Hungry, Italy, Japan or over fueled his car, but none the less respect for Button achievements.. So don’t exaggerate

      • Franton said on 15th December 2011, 17:58

        You’re claiming that the team that notoriously doesn’t favour any driver, is favouring one of it’s drivers?

        • Guccio (@concalvez00) said on 15th December 2011, 19:07

          Have you not noticed Witmarsh phraces for Button even when it was clear that Hamilton was way better like in Germany

          • Franton said on 15th December 2011, 21:55

            There’s no way that Martin Whitmarsh would face the wrath of Ron Dennis for doing so. McLaren has never operated in such a fashion unlike some other teams we could mention (*cough* Ferrari Renault Red Bull *cough* *cough*)

      • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 16th December 2011, 1:53

        @concalvez00 I’ve never seen anything to suggest Whitmarsh favours Button. I think he’s probably the best team principal out there at the moment and he’s always sticking up for Lewis even when there’s no case to be made (like when he turned into Kobayashi in Spa). If he’s seemed a touch harsh on Lewis this year then it’s with good reason. Lewis has been awful. The only talent he has it raw pace, it seems. Or maybe that’s all that shined through this year. But either way, he wasn’t a good all-round F1 driver and as team principal, he has every right to be annoyed.

        Button is a nice guy but next year the hierarchy will be restored, also noticed how Witmarsh and co. messed up Hamiltons race with wrong strategy such as in Malaysia, Monaco, Great Britain, Hungry, Italy, Japan or over fueled his car, but none the less respect for Button achievements..

        I honestly have no idea what you’re implying here. Whitmarsh didn’t sabotage Lewis’ races. Why would he? Why does it matter which of their drivers comes out on top? They’ve nothing to gain from favouring either of them as they’re so evenly matched.

        And I think everyone respects Button’s achievements this year. I thought he’d have silenced his critics after this season, but alas…

        I’m not exaggerating anything.

        @JamieFranklinF1 My cat’s name is actually Button! :P We’ve got him plugged in and charging his KERS in this picture: http://twitpic.com/690dej ;)

        • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 16th December 2011, 7:53

          @damonsmedley, I mostly agree with what you say about Whitmarsh, he does seem to praise Button differently, and of course, over most of this season, Button has had more to praise than Hamilton, but still, he didn’t just defend Hamilton, but said he believed in him, and praised him when praise was due, and even when it wasn’t so clear to the viewer why.

          Example – Brazil: I thought Ham was off the pace for much of the race, apparently that was already the gearbox starting to give up quite early; MW praising HAM for keeping it together and almost getting Massa done without a crash, until box gave up. He of course also congratulated Button on a good race, as was deserved.

          On strategy: well, maybe McLaren goofed with Hamilton’s strategy – the difference was, Button kept an eye out to strategy himself, thus preventing that. Something Hamilton really needs to start picking up from him, I think.

          • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 16th December 2011, 7:57

            @Bosyber I agree completely. Especially with the last paragraph. If you could combine Hamilton’s speed with Button’s intelligence and foresight, you’d surely have an unbeatable driver.

      • So the team who chose “their own lad” over a back-to-back champion would actually be against him now? I’m sure Ron would have had something to say if that were the case. Just get used to the idea that Lewis messed up and Button pounced on the opportunity.

      • mickey18 (@mickey18) said on 16th December 2011, 12:50

        guccio mate
        you have got to be kidding
        in most of those races lewis cocked everything up, not the team.
        in monaco, he crashed into 3 drivers (schumi, felipe and maldonado) got penalties for two of those and a grid penatly as well. in hungary he spun at the chicane, then forced di resta off the road… then got a penalty.
        in italy, he was stuck behind schumi for 16 hours while jenson come in and casually nabbed them both in one lap.
        jenson has been far superior this year, get over it

        • Guccio (@concalvez00) said on 16th December 2011, 18:30

          Mickey where you sleeping during the race or what ?, in Monaco they send him to late out to run a proper time, and look what happend.. in Hungry they put him on wrong tyres while on the radar they could see that rain was not coming & in Monza both Schumacher and Hamiltons tyres where gone when Button came, but still Button has been good this year

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 21st December 2011, 19:08

            In Monaco he had time to set a lap at the end and skipped across the chicane, getting that lap deleted. In Hungary he had the choice of which tyre to go on, and he cocked it up and spun. In Monza he spent 27 laps getting past a car that was a second a lap slower in qualifying.

  9. taurus (@taurus) said on 15th December 2011, 16:21

    I for one never thought Lewis would ‘blow him away’, though I did think Hamilton may get the better of him over the course of a season, as was proved last year. This season though, he seems to have developed an immense mental strength, which obviously elevated him to another level.

    JB is a class act, always was. I think he will only get better from now on.

  10. Once Lewis gets back on track Button is no match for him. My opinion. Button is a great driver but for me not on the same page as Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel. Of course i may be very wrong, so let’s see. The over criticism on Hamilton maybe came from the expections around him, but also came from the need of the press to find a bad guy and a good guy, which is ridiculous. About Jenson’s season i’d put him second on the ranking. His wins were espetacular especially in Montreal. He’s the best one on conserving tyres. His pace during the final stints of the races shown that.

    • Guccio (@concalvez00) said on 15th December 2011, 17:27

      also noticed how Witmarsh and co. messed up Hamiltons race with wrong strategy such as in Malaysia, Monaco, Great Britain, Hungry, Italy, Japan or over fueled his car otherwise Button would nowhere near Hamilton despite Hamilton’s problems

  11. I do not agree with keith ,[ Ham is better than But ] he Ham beat But in all categorys apart from the the points, he out qualifying in almost everything my ranking is 1=VT 2=BUT/ALO 3=HAM 4=WEB 5=ROS Thats how i rate them.

  12. Enzo (@enzof1) said on 15th December 2011, 18:05

    never been a button fan, but last year…. great job!!

  13. ferrari4life said on 15th December 2011, 21:43

    Happy for Jenson and Fernando. I had underestimated Jenson till this year. This year really showed his cool and composure. I still feel like Alonso had a win in canada and button ruined it for him, but i was still happy for him such an incredible drive! I actually had tears of joy for a mclaren win! I think the 3 main drivers were all great in their own way, But if RBR keeps ruling F1 if Ferrari can’t win Im routing for Jenson, such a nice person loved by many. I hope he can oust hamilton out of the team, because he couldn’t seem to do much right this year, unless his main objective was to hit Massa every race. hamilton is going to be sacked next year if he cannot perform, I reckon Mclaren won’t be looking to take the heat for his actions forever, esp if Button continues to give them a chance at a win most races.

  14. pejte (@pejte) said on 15th December 2011, 22:04

    Jenson no3? U MAD BRO!?!

  15. Britalian Stallion said on 16th December 2011, 8:55

    Are you kidding? Button is worth at least second, if not the top spot!

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