Formula 1 driver
|Birthplace||Frome, Somerset, England|
|Born||19 January 1980|
|F1 debut||Australian Grand Prix, 2000|
|Current team||McLaren Honda|
|2012||Indian Grand Prix|
|Australian Grand Prix|
During the end of his F1 career, Jenson Button was one of the most experienced racers, a much loved character who had a good reputation but who was equally ready to leave. Having been part of the circus since the turn of the millennium and with one championship to his name, Button confirmed his departure at the end of the 2016 season with an option to return after a year's sabbatical, albeit an unlikely option.
Jenson Button started karting at a young age, after his father bought him a kart and took him to races. Finding success on four wheels, Button moved into the British Formula Ford and British Formula Three championships, continuing to impress by winning races in his rookie seasons. At the end of 1998, Button won the BRDC Young Driver Award, which gave him the chance to test in a McLaren F1 car.
After the test, Williams F1 found themselves looking for a driver and organised a test for several participants, of which Jenson Button was deemed the best. He was signed for the 2000 season, and debuted as the youngest F1 driver at the time. Despite good early results, a handful of points finishes, and regularly outperforming teammate Ralf Schumacher, Williams decided to bring in IndyCar racer Juan Pablo Montoya, instead loaning Button to Benetton on a two-year deal.
The results at Benetton were disappointing, with Button admitting his inexperience hindered him in his first year with the team. He worked hard over the winter, and the performance picked up for the 2002 season, but Button once again found himself replaced, as the team promoted test driver Fernando Alonso to the race seat. Button moved to British American Racing, where he initially met hostility from teammate Jacques Villeneuve and then crashed in the Monaco race, rendering him unable to participate in the following Grand Prix. Early problems aside, Button continued to improve and impress, ending fourth in the championship overall.
Ahead of the 2005 season, Button decided to move back to Williams and signed a two-year deal with them. However, BAR claimed they had an option on Button’s services, and the matter went before the Contract Recognition Board. BAR won the case, retaining Button for 2005 but they weren’t so lucky during the season, when the stewards found the cars to be illegal and banned their drivers from two races. Button continued to push, despite underperforming machinery, and he started scoring points on a regular basis. At the end of the year, he found himself in contract negotiations once again, as Williams believed he would be returning to them, but the Brit believed he would get better results staying with BAR. They struck a deal and Button remained at BAR, which became Honda Racing for the 2006 season.
Despite securing his first victory in Formula One at the Hungarian Grand Prix that year, results at the Honda team tailed off over the next few seasons. Button remained with the team for several years, through some difficult races of touring at the rear of the field. At the end of 2008, Honda withdrew from Formula One, and the team were bought out by Ross Brawn. The new squad were immediately on the pace in the 2009 season, and Button won six of the first seven races. A dip in performance in the second half of the year wasn’t enough to stop him winning the title, and Button secured his first F1 World Championship.
For the 2010 season, Button moved on from the team he won the title with and joined McLaren. Initially considered a risky move, due to Lewis Hamilton’s prominent place at the team, the pair got on very well and proved a formidable line-up. The McLaren didn’t have the pace to fight for the championship but Button continued to win races and appear on the podium. Button remained with McLaren in 2012, and through the departure of Lewis Hamilton in 2013. He continued with McLaren in 2014, although had to deal with the sad loss of his father due to a heart attack in the early pre-season.
The performance of the car wasn't as good as expected throughout the year, and Button struggled to get the balance right from race to race. He worked hard, though, and was rewarded with another contract for 2015 - although the decision came very late in the year, after McLaren thought long and hard about their line-up for the coming year. It was a difficult season for the renewed team, and they opted for consistency for 2016 with Button and Alonso staying as teammates for another year.
During the season, Button's frustrations were starting to show and it wasn't a surprise when the Brit announced his intention to step back from the sport at the end of the year. The manner of his departure raised some eyebrows, with McLaren securing his services as an ambassador for 2017, with the option to return if anything goes awry that season, and perhaps return to racing full time in 2018. At the end of the season, however, Button admitted he considered this to be his final season in the sport, and he seemed a much happier driver to have set his own end date.
Learn more about Jenson Button with the Pocket F1 Handbook.