Top Five Races: Jenson Button
This weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix will see Jenson Button line up on the grid to start a Formula 1 race for the 250th time.
The Brit’s career started with a bang at the Williams team, where he immediately made an impression. However, poor machinery meant that it took him five seasons to score his first podium finish and seven to register a race victory.
Following Honda’s dramatic departure from F1 at the end of 2008, Brawn GP rose from the ashes. Button dominated the start of the 2009 season and despite the Brackley-based outfit losing its early advantage, he still managed to secure the world championship at the penultimate round.
He left the team behind to join McLaren for 2010 and was immediately challenging at the front. Button has won eight races with the team so far and has become the most experienced driver on the 2014 grid, as well as completing the most starts by a British driver in the sport. Here, Jack Leslie take a look at the five greatest races of his Formula 1 career so far:
5. 2004 German Grand Prix
Michael Schumacher dominated the 12th round of the 2004 season but it was Jenson Button who starred for BAR-Honda. Competing in his fifth F1 campaign, he was handed a 10-place grid penalty for an engine change after qualifying in third place.
Starting 13th on the grid, he moved swiftly through the field and was up to fifth place by lap 15. After putting in some blistering laptimes mid-way through the race, he managed to close in on the Renault of Fernando Alonso.
He displaced the Spaniard and jumped into second place on lap 52 despite battling with a loosened helmet strap that required him to race at times with only one hand on the steering wheel. Button eventually crossed the line in second place – eight seconds down on the race leader, making you wonder what he could have done if he had started in his original grid position.
4. 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix
This race was arguably the most important of Button’s career, as he raced through the field to secure the 2009 Formula 1 world title. He had qualified in a lowly 14th place but put in a strong recovery drive, avoiding the lap one chaos and completing some stunning overtakes to finish in fifth place.
His championship rivals Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello finished in fourth and eighth respectively. On the slowdown lap, he famously showed off his singing skills (or lack of) with a rendition of “we are the champions” by Queen, as he became the 10th ever British F1 champion and the first to succeed another since 1969.
3. 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix
After seven tough seasons chasing for his first ever Formula 1 race win, Button finally managed to stand on the top step of the podium at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix. Driving for Honda, he started down in 14th after a 10-place grid penalty for an engine change. It was the first wet F1 race in Hungary in 21 years.
Kimi Raikkonen led from pole position and built up a dominant lead before retiring from the race after hitting a backmarker on lap 25. Alonso took over the lead before his right-rear wheel nut detached after a switch to dry tyres on lap 51; leaving Button out front after a speedy rise through the field (he was fourth by lap seven). He crossed the line to take a euphoric and popular win by 30 seconds.
2. 2009 Australian Grand Prix
The winter break between the 2008 and 2009 seasons was an incredibly tough time for Button after the departure of Honda from Formula 1. He was left with the prospect of not having a drive on the grid but fortunately the team was saved , forming Brawn GP.
It was a fairytale start for Button in Australia after he secured pole position on Saturday by three tenths of a second and dominated the dramatic season opener on the following day. He drove a faultless race and led from start to finish to claim his second ever victory, with his team-mate Barrichello eight tenths behind due to a late safety car.
1. 2011 Canadian Grand Prix
This one was obvious, wasn’t it? Arguably one of the most dramatic races in recent F1 history and officially the longest ever (at four hours and four minutes), Button came from the back of the pack to take the lead and win the race on the final lap after a rare mistake by Sebastian Vettel.
The German led every single lap bar the most important one of all. Button started in seventh but a clash with his team-mate, a drive-through penalty and two pit stops prior to the red flag on lap 25 (due to atrocious weather conditions) left him in ninth at the restart. When the race got underway, he hit Alonso’s Ferrari and dropped to 21st with a puncture.
The recovery drive was on and he incredibly managed to weave his way up to second place by lap 65. He soon began closing in on the race leader and was just 0.9 seconds behind by the start of the final lap. As Vettel entered turn six, he strayed off-line and onto the wet part of the circuit. As he was sent half spinning, Button powered into the lead to take a thrilling and unexpected win after six pit stops and numerous safety car periods.
Images courtesy of McLaren Mercedes, Honda Racing and Wikimedia Commons
Jack Leslie is a freelance motorsport journalist. He has been part of the Richland F1 team since the very start and made his debut in the F1 paddock for the website at the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix. Jack also writes for Car Throttle and RumbleStripNews, as well as running a popular blog.