Legendary Williams Drivers

Jenson Button

2009 World Champion Jenson Button was given his Formula 1 debut by Sir Frank in 2000 at the age of just 20, making him Britain's youngest ever Formula 1 driver. He would complete the season, but move to Benetton the following year, after which Williams thought they'd resigned him twice, but both times the case went to the court of arbitration and Button was forced, then allowed to drive for BAR.

4th

17

2000

Team Debut

0

Poles

1

Seasons

0

Fastest Laps

12

Total Points

Jenson Button began karting at the age of eight, encouraged by his father John – himself a keen rallycross driver of some repute.

Button progressed to single seaters with a title-winning season in Formula Ford in 1998, before moving up to British Formula 3 in 1999, finishing the year in third with runner-up spot in the Grand Prix of Macau to boot.

His prize for winning the Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award in 1998 was a test in a Formula 1 McLaren the following year, which was closely followed by a second Formula 1 test, this time for Prost.

Meanwhile, Alex Zanardi’s seat needed filling after the Italian was ushered back to America after a poor season.

Sir Frank set up a shootout between Button and Brazilian Bruno Junquiera, Button prevailed and he was offered the drive just two full seasons after beginning his racing car career, making him Britain’s youngest ever Formula 1 driver at just 19 years of age.

Patrick Head described Button as ‘definitely a star of the future’ prior to his debut in Australia of 2000, where JB managed to crash in qualifying and DNF in the race (albeit within sight of a point).

He made no mistake next time out, when he became the youngest ever driver to score a point in F1 with a sixth place in the Brazilian GP.

Over the course of the first half of the season Button more than matched the pace of his more experienced team-mate Ralf Schumacher, but a dip in form in the latter part of the season encouraged Williams to exercise their option on Indycar superstar Juan Pablo Montoya for 2001 and Button was out of a drive (albeit with Williams retaining his contract, effectively loaning him out to Benetton).

His first season with Benetton was a complete disaster, Button citing his inexperience in setting up an F1 car as the reason he was unable to match his stablemate Fisichella.

His second (Benetton becoming Renault at the end of 2001) was a marked improvement, but despite outscoring Trulli in the sister car, a fractious relationship with team boss Flavio Briatore saw the Briton ousted at the end of the year in favour of a young Fernando Alonso.

BAR was his next stop, where a solid 2003 led to increased Honda investment and BAR quickly being considered a front running team.

Button scored his first podium in Malaysia 2004, and his second at the subsequent round in Bahrain, finishing the season with ten podiums from 18 races and 3rd in the drivers championship.

Things were not quite as straightforward off the track, contract disputes between BAR and Button’s old team Williams, with whom Button had signed a contract for 2005 resulted in a court arbitration deciding in BAR’s favour.

The following year would be a backwards step, with BAR off the pace and subject to unreliability, before BAR became Honda in 2006 and the added impetus allowed Button to take his first Grand Prix win.

Much was hoped of Honda for 2007 and 2008, but they were blighted with two truly uncompetitive cars that were so bad that Honda could take no more shame and quit Formula 1 altogether.

This left Button with an uncertain future, and without a drive for 2009 unless a buyer could be found for the remnants of the Honda team (which included a fully designed and built 2009 spec car, with – unbeknown to the rest of the F1 world – a device called the ‘double diffuser’ that would shock Formula 1).

Step forward Ross Brawn with an eleventh hour rescue package, that many people thought would see Brawn GP as they were known able to take up their place on the grid for 2009 and little more.

How wrong we were. Brawn romped to six wins in seven races at the start of the season and into an unassailable lead in the World Championships, taking both titles at their one and only attempt, before being bought by Mercedes Benz.

Despite taking the crown, Button was ousted by two German drivers – Schumacher and Rosberg – and he headed off to join Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.

Three good years followed, but a handful of wins wasn’t quite enough to challenge Vettel and Red Bull for the title in either 2010, 2011 or 2012, before it all went south for McLaren, and Button found himself well off the pace for the final years of his Formula 1 career, eventually retiring for good in 2017.

Categories: Drivers

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