Top 10 F1 races: Jenson Button

By on Thursday, April 3, 2014

Jenson Button reaches a milestone at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix which only four other men in history have achieved. Button will follow in the footsteps of Rubens Barrichello, Michael Schumacher, Riccardo Patrese and Jarno Trulli in notching up his 250th start in Formula 1. There's been highs for the Brit and there's also been some considerable lows. Few drivers have experienced a career such as Button's so to celebrate, we take a look back at what we think are his 10 best races in the sport.

German Grand Prix 2004 – The one armed bandit

Lotus F1 Team

Lotus F1 Team

Button had completed several good races across his career and it was in 2004 when he and BAR made the breakthrough into genuine challengers. 10 podium finishes were accrued in 2004 but it was in Germany where Button truly starred. An engine failure during practice meant that Button was demoted from third on the grid down to 13th, but from there he scythed through the field like a man possessed. His helmet strap came loose towards the end of the race, which required Button to drive much of the lap one handed, in order to avoid breathing difficulties! Button nonetheless outfoxed Fernando Alonso and came home in second place, just eight seconds behind the dominant Schumacher. Without his grid penalty it’s feasible that Button’s first win would have come two years sooner than it did.

Hungarian Grand Prix 2006 – They said he might never win a Grand Prix…

Would he ever win a race? That was the question frequently posed to Button as he approached his 113th race in the sport. Like two years previously in Germany, Button qualified in a lofty position but was demoted to 14th place on the grid following an engine penalty. Wet weather greeted the teams on race day and Button made swift progress in dispatching with the midfield runners, before opting not to pit when the safety car was deployed to clear the terminally damaged car of erstwhile race leader Kimi Räikkönen. Button moved up to second place and challenged Alonso for the race lead but slipped back when he pitted. Alonso remained a threat but during his stop for dry tyres Renault failed to attach Alonso’s wheel nut properly and the Spaniard slithered into the barriers. Button was now comfortable in the race lead and eased to victory by 30 seconds. The question could finally be emphatically answered.

Australian Grand Prix 2009 – The Comeback Kid

Button’s victory in Hungary led to a fruitful period at the end of 2006 but Honda produced woeful machinery in 2007 and 2008, before the hammer blow arrived. Honda was pulling the plug with immediate effect. Button and the team rallied round and team principal Ross Brawn acquired the squad and sourced engines from Mercedes. Then came testing. The car was quick. Monstrously quick. Many predicted that the team was running light on fuel to attract sponsors to their bare car, but the first round of the season silenced such thoughts. Button stormed to pole position and controlled proceedings during the race on his way to a second career victory, ahead of Brawn team-mate Rubens Barrichello. Button looked unlikely to appear on the grid three months beforehand, yet here he was winning the race. It was as close as Formula 1 gets to a proper fairy-tale.

Brazilian Grand Prix 2009 - The title charge

Lotus F1 Team

Lotus F1 Team

The fairy-tale continued for several months. Button won six of the opening seven races in 2009 and opened up a commanding lead in the championship. But their rivals, most pertinently Red Bull, caught up and Brawn slipped back in the development race. Button slipped from easing to victories to battling for the points. Team-mate Rubens Barrichello won a couple of races to edge into contention, while Button managed just a solitary podium in Italy. Red Bull’s young gun, Sebastian Vettel, was also racking up the points. Button was a man under pressure as the sport arrived in Brazil for the penultimate round of the year. Qualifying was a disaster for Button. Barrichello claimed pole position during a chaotic session, while Button was knocked out in Q2. Yet come race day, Button was fired up. He carved his way through the midfield and finished the race in fifth place, which secured him the world championship.

Australian Grand Prix 2010 - A slick gamble

Button’s future with Brawn was being questioned following his world title and a month after Brazil, Button confirmed that he would switch teams and mount his championship defence with McLaren. Onlookers predicted that despite winning the crown, Button would be thoroughly beaten by new team-mate Lewis Hamilton. The first race in Bahrain offered little to dispute this as Hamilton finished on the podium while Button came home in seventh. But damp conditions in Australia left Button in his element. From fourth on the grid he maintained his position and opted to pit early for dry tyres, which looked like being an incorrect choice as he slithered through the gravel on his out lap. But the Brit soon began setting purple sector times and when the rest of the field pitted, he was second only to Vettel. When the Red Bull driver suffered a brake failure mid-race, Button inherited the lead and never looked back as he claimed his first win for McLaren.

Italian Grand Prix 2010 - The alternative approach

Button won again in wet conditions in China but was usually playing catch-up to his rivals in dry conditions. After a couple of second places mid-season Button had been taken out of the Belgian Grand Prix by Vettel, which left the reigning world champion with a deficit to make up. In Italy, Button and McLaren trialled running with a huge rear wing for downforce through the corners – an antithetical approach to the usual skinny rear wing teams ran at Monza for top speed. Certainly, team-mate Hamilton was unconvinced and set-up his car for top speed. Button qualified on the front row and his greater acceleration meant he snatched the lead from pole sitter Alonso into the first lap. Button had to ensure that he nailed the exit of Parabolica every single lap and he did, although Alonso’s greater top speed meant he got close on a couple of occasions. Ultimately, Ferrari simply had to react to McLaren’s pit stop and they kept Alonso out for a few laps longer, enabling him to jump Button. Nonetheless, it was a bold gamble by McLaren and it very nearly worked.

Canadian Grand Prix 2011 - From last to first

McLaren-Mercedes

McLaren-Mercedes

This one has certainly gone down in folklore. It had been over a year since Button last won a race yet he did so in Canada in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Wet weather greeted the teams on race day and it undoubtedly aided Button’s progress. Team-mate Hamilton attempted to get through on Button, but the duo clashed and Hamilton was eliminated. The race was suspended for a couple of hours and upon the restart, Button and Alonso collided, leaving Alonso stranded on a kerb and Button in the pits to repair a puncture. The resultant safety car helped Button close in on the field, but he was still in last place. From there he mounted a stunning comeback as both he and the MP4-26 were suited to the conditions. He scythed through the field and was lapping significantly faster than his rivals. With half a lap to go, race leader Vettel ran wide and handed the lead to Button. The Brit’s comeback was complete in a race which lasted over four hours. It was one of the sport’s epic races.

Hungarian Grand Prix 2011 - 200 up

A damp race in Hungary? We’ve been here before. Drivers were forced to start the race on wet tyres due to the slippery track surface and Button ran in third place early on, behind Hamilton and Vettel. Like in Melbourne a year previously, Button opted for an early stop to slicks and he made the jump on Vettel, while Hamilton retained the lead. The two McLaren drivers headed the field until two-thirds of the way through the race, when worsening conditions caused Hamilton to spin exiting the chicane. Button caught up and the duo battled for a few laps before Hamilton prevailed and opted to pit for wet tyres. Button stayed out and the conditions soon cleared, requiring Hamilton to change back to slick tyres as he dropped out of contention. Five years after his maiden win and on the occasion of his 200th race, Button crossed the line in first place.

Japanese Grand Prix 2011 - Suzuka masterclass

Button arrived in Japan as the only man capable of denying Vettel a second successive title – although the odds were insurmountably slim. The Brit sported a special Japanese helmet to pay tribute to the thousands of people who were killed by the devastating tsunami which struck the country six months earlier. Button was just 0.009s down on Vettel in qualifying but was demoted to third at the start after Vettel’s aggressive defending allowed Hamilton through into second. Hamilton suffered from degradation and ran wide, elevating Button back into second place. Red Bull’s conservatism and desire to clinch the title meant they played safe and pitted Vettel early, while Button ran a lap longer and took the lead when he emerged from his stop. Alonso closed in on Button as the race reached its conclusion but the McLaren driver held on to secure a deserved and emotional victory.

Belgian Grand Prix 2012 - Belgian delight

McLaren-Mercedes

McLaren-Mercedes

Button had rarely been a threat during qualifying throughout his McLaren career but in dry conditions at Spa he stormed to his first pole position for three years, ahead of Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi. Such was Button’s pace that team-mate Hamilton sent his infamous tweet to show off his car telemetry. The start crash wiped out many of his quick rivals as Romain Grosjean eliminated Alonso, Hamilton and the two Saubers, while the rapid Pastor Maldonado also encountered trouble. After the safety car period Button eased away from his rivals to claim victory by 13 seconds. It was one of the highlights of a season in which Button won the first and last race, but had little success in between.


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