Jenson Alexander Lyons Button was born on January 19, 1980 in Frome, an English town in the Somerset region. Son of Simone Lyons and John Button, ex-rally driver and famous in his homeland during the 70s, from whom he inherits the passion for engines. John himself tells us that his son's name comes from the deep friendship that binds him to Erling Jensen, friend and opponent in the rally championship and from the disproportionate love he had for Jensen Motors cars, so that one day, after having seen a fantastic car belonging to the British car manufacturer, he decides to change the letter and to o, calling his son Jenson. Needless to say, all this represents the premise for a career as a predestined.
Thus, at the age of eight, Jenson gets on a kart for the first time, immediately showing that he has what it takes to be a champion: he participates and wins his first race at the Dorchester circuit and the following year he wins the title British Super Prix in its category while two years later it participates and dominates the British cadet championship, imposing itself in all thirty-four seasonal events. What strikes the boy is certainly his driving style, very smooth as the British would say, and his remarkable ability to understand the moments of the race, as remembered by his mentor Fabiano Belletti:
"I was a driver and a talent scout. On free weekends, I used to go to kart racing. One day in 1993, on the Buckmore Park track, on the outskirts of London, I met this little boy. He struck me for his clean style and intelligence in the race. At the time Jenson was thirteen years old and he was racing in the 60 minikart with the Rok, a team that used engines prepared by his father John, a former rally driver. But the level in England was low, so I suggested that he come and race in Italy. I still remember the first test. We went to Sicily, on the Ramacca track, and he had a defect on his debut. He made the corners without removing the gas, keeping the brake down: a technique that did not work in the higher category, because it made everything overheat. It was enough to tell him once, and I didn't have to repeat it to him in the next three years. But Jenson practically didn't brake in the corners anymore. We did the whole season with one set of pills".
Constantly supported by his biggest fan, his father John, Jenson continues his path towards the Olympus of racing drivers by participating and obtaining more than encouraging results in international competitions: he finishes on the podium both the Formula A World Championships of 1995 and of 1996, before finally establishing himself the following year in the European Formula Super A championship, the highest category for drivers of his age. The excellent results allow the young English talent to carve out an important name among the most promising talents of his generation, attracting the attention of the Team Managers of the most renowned categories. Among these is Harald Huysmans who in 1998, at the suggestion of Team Manager Paul Lemmens, hires Jenson to participate in the British Formula Ford championship.
The opportunity is one not to be missed: Jenson sniffs the shot and imposes himself in his first year, becoming champion of the category and earning the jump in the British Formula 3 championship for the following year. At the end of the 1999 season, Jenson climbs to the podium of the final standings and is awarded the title of best rookie. The news on the long string of victories and placings reaches the historic offices of Grove, home of Williams F1, which right now is looking for a driver to work alongside Ralf Schumacher. Button is thus contacted to participate in a private test session in the Barcelona circuit alongside the Formula 3000 driver Bruno Junqueira, with whom to compete for the vacant seat.
"The engineers were also present at the test and it scared me to death because I didn't have any of the skills normally required. I didn't know how to improve the car, what to do to correct understeer or oversteer, what changes to make to the wings to go faster in the corners slow or fast ones. Luckily for me I was fast enough and in the end I got the place".
The young English driver is thus hired by the glorious team of Frank Williams and at the starting line of the new season, on the Australian circuit of Melbourne, the twenty-year-old from Frome turns out to be the third youngest rookie in the history of formula 1.
"I am obviously very nervous and excited but I was looking forward to being here in Melbourne. I feel a lot of pressure on me, as it is normal, but I can't wait to show my full potential".
The first Grand Prix, however, will not be among those to remember, with the Englishman who, thanks to a fuel draft problem, will suffer a heavy gap in qualifying from teammate Schumacher, closing the race with a retirement due to a problem with the BMW engine. However, the redemption is not long in coming and on the Interlagos circuit, the second round of the season, Button enters the top ten ahead of his boxmate by two positions. In the race, thanks to the numerous retirements including those of Hakkinen, Barrichello, Coulthard and Irvine, the Englishman manages to conquer an important sixth place just behind Ralf Schumacher, bringing home the first world championship point of his career. After a weekend to forget on the occasion of the Imola Grand Prix, in which he is forced to retire, Button returns to score important points for the English team on the occasion of the home Grand Prix. On the Silverstone circuit, the two Williams are the protagonists of an excellent test, finishing respectively in sixth and seventh position.
At the start, thanks to a heated duel between Hakkinen and Schumacher with the Finn in McLaren to block his rival for the Ferrari title, both Williams win a position thus entering the points. Button is the protagonist of a masterful first race stint, managing to remain firmly glued to the leading group but, having reached the pits for the first refueling which will prove to be rather slow, he loses his position in favor of his teammate. The race of the two cars of the Grove team runs smoothly and indeed, taking advantage of the retirement of Barrichello's Ferrari, they advance respectively to fourth and fifth position, and then subsequently suffer the comeback of a furious Michael Schumacher for having lost ground at the start. A few laps from the end, the twist of the race, with Frentzen on Jordan, up to that moment in fourth position who is forced to retire due to gearbox problems and which thus leaves the way to the two Williams bishops who will close the race in fourth and fifth position.
"Finishing in the points here at Silverstone is an extraordinary feeling and it is even more so if none of those ahead of you, apart from Frentzen, retire. Great race".
After a series of races around the middle of the season, in which the results are slow to reappear, the English driver returns to collect points at the Austrian Grand Prix when, after starting from the eighteenth place, he takes advantage of every opportunity that the race elimination can offer, managing to conclude in an unexpected fifth position. At the end of July, the eleventh round of the season takes place on the German circuit of Hockenheim, on the very fast original layout. On Saturday the rain is the protagonist, which begins to fall heavily a few minutes after the start of the session, benefiting the cars that first managed to score a fastest lap.
Among the group that pays the consequences of the adverse weather conditions are the Williams-BMWs, which do not go beyond the fourteenth and sixteenth place with Button. The race, however, is another story: Fisichella collides with Schumacher after a few meters, ending the race of both drivers and causing the Safety Car to enter. To take advantage of this situation are both McLarens who, without their rival, soon take off thanks also to a Barrichello victim of hydraulic problems on Saturday and at that moment blocked in the middle of the group.
The Brazilian, however, slowly begins an inexorable comeback that will bring him back, around the middle of the race, to third position but half a minute away from the two cars of the Woking team. The twist, however, is not long in coming: Rober Sehli, a former Mercedes employee, invades the track to protest his dismissal, walking dangerously along the track and causing the safety car to enter the track again, thus cancelling Hakkinen's advantage, and Coulthard. At the same time Button, who started from the pit lane for not being able to enter the first gear at the start, thanks to the retirements Herbert, Alesi, Diniz and the problems accused by Verstappen, goes back to the group. As if that were not enough, a few laps after the safety car has returned to the track, it begins to rain but not uniformly along the track, leaving the drivers and the walls uncertain about the possible pit stops.
Button and Heidfeld are the first to return, imitated by the majority of the group on the next lap, except by Barrichello, Frentzen and Coulthard who, as the end-of-race classification will say, get the winning strategy right. Barrichello imposes himself at the end of a memorable race in front of Hakkinen, Coulthard and just Button, who misses his first podium for a few seconds in what, years later, he will confess to have been one of the most difficult races of his career.
In the remaining races of the season, an important third place on the grid at Spa is worth noting, just seven tenths of a second away from poleman Hakkinen, before finishing fifth again. After two retirements in the Italian Grand Prix in Monza and in the United States in Indianapolis, the Englishman takes another remarkable fifth place in Japan, at the Suzuka circuit, contributing to the third final place of his team in the constructors' standings. The first season in Formula 1 is undoubtedly positive for the young twenty year old from Frome but he delivers a boy who is still very immature and impetuous in driving, as evidenced by the various contacts he has during the season with Trulli who, on the occasion of the Gran Indianapolis award, he lets himself go to a decisive outburst:
"Button drives like an idiot, he's out of his mind. He hit me twice only in this race and it's not the first time that happens".
Jenson Button closes the season with 12 points, half of those collected by Ralf Schumacher, and qualifies in front of his teammate on only five out of seventeen occasions. These results, however, do not make him reconfirm on board the Williams who instead prefers to tackle another emerging boy, Juan Pablo Montoya. For Button, therefore, the doors of Benetton led by Flavio Briatore open, who hires him to support Giancarlo Fisichella for the 2001 season. It is the beginning of a very problematic and highly conflicting relationship, with the Roman manager and the English driver who will come to loggerheads several times, as in the case of the Monte Carlo Grand Prix: Button starts from seventeenth place and, thanks to a race full of withdrawals, comes seventh behind Alesi on Prost. The result, however, does not satisfy the Italian manager who at the end of the race harshly attacks his driver who, in an interview released a few years later, will tell the background:
"Obviously he's a very good businessman, but we never got together when I worked with him. He really put too much pressure on me: at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, for example, he told me he thought I was looking for an apartment to buy rather than concentrating on driving the car. I didn't like gestures like this and they certainly didn't help improve my attitude towards him".
The B201 of the Italian team is certainly not the best of the cars on the track so that the 2001 season is completely to be forgotten, with the young Button collecting the misery of two points thanks to a fifth place finish on the Nurburgring circuit, finishing the championship at shoulders of Fisichella who collects eight total points and takes away the satisfaction of getting on the lowest step of the podium always on the occasion of the German Grand Prix.
Button suffers not only from the conflicting relationship with Briatore, but he feels the increasingly looming figure of another talent on the launching pad hovering over his head, that Fernando Alonso of which Flavio Briatore himself is the first supporter. The increasingly strong pressures, the constant need to demonstrate one's worth and a working environment that does not transmit the necessary confidence to a young driver will be the ingredients of a bumpy growth path. The same Button will return later to talk about the topic, telling:
"We often spent periods of training holidays in Kenya with Flavio and all the engineers. On some occasions Alonso himself joined us. They were very constructive weeks thanks to which I was able to understand what to do in order to improve my driving style and performance, but time was short. At the time Benetton was really hard on the drivers and I have to admit that I wasn't strong enough mentally".
Despite the not encouraging premises, he is confirmed for the 2002 season and this time he is joined by Jarno Trulli. However, the team faces an important management change and is acquired by Renault, which thus returns to Formula 1 after an absence lasting seventeen years. The new R202 is an evolution of the previous B201 and is equipped with an innovative V10 engine with 111° cylinder banks but, results in hand, it will not achieve the hoped-for success and will induce the technicians to abandon it as early as the following season. The season is still the best of those so far disputed by the young Button who, after a retirement on the occasion of the first round of the season in Melbourne, wins three consecutive points in the races of Malaysia, Brazil and San Marino, with two quarters and one fifth place, all achieved in comeback.
It seems the preamble of a continuation of the championship at the highest levels which, instead, will show the real value of a car that will constantly sail in the middle of the group. In fact, after the fifth place in Imola, there will be only four points placed in the remaining thirteen races that will allow Button to still be able to beat his teammate with fourteen total points compared to Trulli's eight. After all, the Englishman's positive season does not, however, make him reconfirm on board the Renault which, as can already be guessed from the hostile relationship between Button and Briatore, turns on Alonso by hiring him for the 2003 season.
"It was a hard blow, I have to admit, but I expected it".
However, it is the beginning of a new and shinier chapter that will lead the young Jenson to marry at the BAR where he will find a completely different environment than Benetton, as confirmed by the pilot himself:
"Here the atmosphere is completely different. They are all smiling, open, they make me feel welcome but at the same time they are all focused on their work".
The season that is about to begin represents for Button an important crossroads in his career, being forced to demonstrate the talent so promised, but still only in flashes shown in the first three years in Formula 1. In BAR, Jenson competes alongside Villeneuve, a former World Champion, fast, with a lot of experience and with an untouchable position within the team, being one of the architects of the construction of the same during 1999: a challenge certainly interesting and not without difficulty. The relationship between the two is complex and there are numerous frictions that are created from the beginning, with Villeneuve being the protagonist of statements that are certainly not welcome:
"Button should be in a boy band, not in Formula 1".
The relationship between the two only gets worse on the occasion of the first round of the season, when the Canadian is the protagonist of a trip against the English. In Melbourne, Villeneuve sprints from the sixth box while Button from the eighth. The Englishman's race pace is very fast and he soon gets close to his teammate who, before him, would have had to stop for refueling; the Canadian however, during the first stint of the race, often resorts to the lift and coast strategy that allows him to save gasoline and to postpone his return to the pits so that, during the twenty-fifth lap, the two BAR standard bearers return to the pits together and make it the expense is just Button who is forced to wait in the queue for the car of his teammate, losing about twenty seconds. It seems like a compromised race but, upon returning from the pit stop, the Englishman begins to run at a frenzied pace that allows him to reduce the tear created in the pits and finish the race attached to his teammate's 005.
"It is certainly not what I wanted from my first race with BAR but at least I was able to show my pace and, in the end, I can be satisfied".
The episode helps the same driver to build a solid reputation within the team, managing to show that he is a fast driver and without awe of much more popular drivers. From Melbourne onwards, Button confirms the progress shown in the first race and begins to impose himself with a certain consistency against Villeneuve: the end-of-season comparisons between teammates will show a supremacy in qualifying, albeit not substantial, in favor of the English (8-6) who will clearly impose himself in the race by beating the Canadian with a peremptory 8-4, the result of seven placements in points, with the two fourth places at the Grand Prix of Austria and Japan as the best results.
The consistency of performance convinces David Richards, owner of the Anglo-American team, to promote Jenson as the first driver of the team and, consequently, to walk away Villeneuve before the end of the season, replacing him with Takuma Sato at the last round of the season in Japan. on the Suzuka circuit. After two difficult seasons in Benetton, Button responds with personality to the last significant call in Formula 1: he annihilates a former World Champion who tried, at the beginning of the season, to upset him psychologically and, establishing himself with peremptory, confirms the high hopes and the talent shown early in career.
Along the lines of the season just ended, the 2004 one begins: The 006 from BAR is an evolution of the previous car with some chassis modifications, now more rigid, new suspensions and a smaller tank to meet the new FIA regulations. The new car is very competitive and allows Button to constantly enter the fight for the podium. The opening race in Melbourne offers the usual red-tinted script with the two Ferraris, captained by Schumacher, unstoppable for all, to the point of accumulating a lap of advantage over the fourth position occupied by Button towards the middle of the race. The British driver himself, however, will be overtaken by the two BMWs of Montoya and Ralf Schumacher, thus finishing in sixth place. The redemption is not long in coming: in Malaysia, the second round of the season, the Englishman starts in sixth position and thanks to a start to forget for Webber, he advances to fifth place.
He fought for almost half the race with Trulli before passing him with a masterful maneuver outside turn 9 and then holding his position until the end of the second pit-stop when, due to hydraulic problems, Raikkonen's retirement allowed him to advance up to the much sought after third position. It seems like a written ending but Sato's BAR accuses the Honda engine of problems that force it to retire and the engineers of the Anglo-American team are forced to limit the number of revolutions of Button's engine, allowing Barrichello to quickly reassemble it. You can see the ghosts of the previous year who, in the same circuit, deprived Button of the podium on the last lap of the race but a perfect conduct allows him to keep the third place until the end of the race and to get on the podium for the first time in his career, indulging in declarations of release:
"I had been waiting for this moment for too long but I knew from the first race that sooner or later it would happen. I love this circuit and getting my first podium right here is something special. Being up there with Michael then, I couldn't ask for anything better".
The podium in Kuala Lumpur is the prelude to what will become a habit for Button and the Anglo-American team for mid-season. The growth of the young English driver and the red and white single-seater is evident and the rivals, McLaren above all, suffer from lack of consistency and as much reliability.
So, leaving out a Ferrari from a completely different planet, only Alonso's Renault and Montoya's Williams worry a Button that is incredibly fast, solid and aware of its strength. The incredible third place in Malaysia will be followed by as many placings in Bahrain, Germany, on the Nurburgring circuit, and Canada, on the Montréal circuit, as well as two incredible second positions in Imola and Monte-Carlo. In the middle there is also the enormous satisfaction of signing the first start in pole position at the San Marino Grand Prix, when, thanks to a lap of masterful precision, he is two tenths ahead of Schumacher himself, aboard one of the fastest cars of the history of this sport, the F2004.
In the second half of the season, however, something changes but it is more a mental problem, rather than pure speed: the unpredictable results achieved so far push Button and his entourage to look for a seat elsewhere with the hope of finding a team willing and capable of giving the Englishman a car capable of interrupting the overwhelming power of Maranello. Thus, on August 5th he signed a two-year contract with BMW, immediately challenged by the management of the team based in Ockham. The contractual quibble on which the entire dispute is based concerns the clause, included in the Englishman's contract, of being able to free himself from his team in the event that the team risked losing the supply of Honda engines. Just BAR had recently signed a contract that provided for the extension of the supply of engines for another two years, a contract however disputed by BMW as not definitive. The case, which inevitably ended in the hands of the FIA, ends with a victory in favor of BAR.
"At BAR I am not happy and, of course, I am disappointed with what the FIA has expressed but the team has been extremely professional on the track and I expect this to continue in the future".
The aftermath of the story is evident on the track and Button, while maintaining a truly remarkable standard of results, loses his shine at the beginning of the season, giving way to his opponents on many occasions. In the following ten races following the Canadian Grand Prix, Button will be able to get on the podium four more times thanks to two second places in Germany and China, and two thirds in Japan and Italy, ending the season in third place in the drivers' standings with 85 points and allowing the team to become world constructors vice-champion ahead of Renault.
The 2005 season represents a turning point for Formula 1, after the FIA intervenes on the regulation citing the urgent need to reduce the performance of the cars to keep the cars within acceptable safety constraints. In fact, lap records are often broken on almost every track in the World Championship, and top speeds hit peaks of over 370 km/h. To put a stop to all this, a first rule is imposed on the V10 engines, now forced to have to run two races instead of just one, as was the case previously, while at the aerodynamic level a load reduction is decided, with an increase of 50 millimeters of the front wings, and the cut of the rear extractor profile: the efficiency of the single-seaters is thus reduced by about 15%. The tire change during the course of the race is also eliminated. The 007, the new birth of the Anglo-American team, has been significantly modified compared to the previous 006.
Shorter wheelbase, more tapered sides and a spoon nose are the peculiar characteristics of the car that tries to recover the aerodynamic efficiency lost due to the new regulations. The start of the season, however, highlights the limits of a project born badly: if in qualifying the two BAR bishops manage, especially with Button, to enter the top ten, it is in the race that the limits of the new car emerge which, in addition to a chronic aerodynamic deficiency, will suffer from numerous reliability problems. In the first three races of the championship Button is always forced to retire due to the failure of the Honda engine or to problems with the clutch and when the first noteworthy results arrive at the fourth round of the season, with Button third and Sato fifth, the team is disqualified from FIA for having installed a second fuel tank on the 007 that allowed the car to be underweight at certain times during the race.
The disqualification is then extended for the following two races of the season with the team not being able to take part in the events held on the circuits of Catalunya and Monte-Carlo. Upon returning to the grid after being disqualified, the Englishman was unable to go beyond tenth place at the European Grand Prix, raced at the Nurburgring, but redeemed himself at the next Canadian appointment when, unexpectedly, he won a fantastic pole position in front to Schumacher's Ferrari. At the start, however, he was overtaken by both the Renault of Alonso and Fisichella and then sailed in third position until halfway through the race when an error in the last variant threw him straight towards the Wall of Champions and he was forced to retire.
The developments brought to the track by BAR in the second half of the season considerably improve the car package, allowing a truly remarkable turnaround. In the remaining ten races of the world championship, the Englishman manages to constantly enter the points, climbing to the lowest step of the podium at Hockenheim and Spa.
"This has been a really tough season but fortunately, once we understood the problems with our car, we were able to improve it very quickly and that is extremely important in Formula 1. Scoring points in the last ten races and being the only one on the grid. to have succeeded is a good goal and I believe that all the bases are in place to look to next season with extreme confidence".
The notable improvements of the car convince the driver himself, who in the meantime had signed a contract with Williams for the 2006 season again this year, to retrace his steps.
"I don't think the contract is binding and I certainly don't think any team wants a driver who wants to race for someone else. I got in touch with Frank Williams and told him what I think. He and I have a great relationship and this whole situation is certainly not helping but I'm sure he understands that I need to do the best for my career".
Button is now firmly convinced that he is in the right place to finally be able to aim for his first career victory:
"I have been in Formula 1 for six years and now I am ready to win races and compete for the World Championship. I cannot wait another three years to build a new team, I need to drive for a team that is competitive in the short term and that builds the engines by itself".
For the 2006 season, in fact, BAR was acquired by Honda, marking the return to Formula 1 of the Japanese manufacturer after an absence that lasted since 1968. In this long period of absence, Honda nevertheless remained in the circus as an engine supplier. The new Honda RA106 designed by Geoff Willis is certainly a better car than the BAR 007, very fast in qualifying but with fluctuating performance in the race. The start of the season is very promising and in the first four rounds of the season Button is constantly qualifying in the first two rows, winning his third career pole at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
In the race, as mentioned, the performance of the RA107 worsened considerably and the English rider only managed to reach the podium at the Malaysian Grand Prix, finishing third behind the Renault of Fisichella and Alonso and finishing in the points in Bahrain, Imola and Barcelona. The results that arrive at the turn of the middle of the season are however to be forgotten, with the Englishman who will collect three withdrawals and two placings outside the points, results that will lead to the resignation of the chief designer Willis. After an excellent fourth place on the occasion of the twelfth round on the German circuit of Hockenheim, we arrive in Hungary.
Since free practice Button proves to be at ease along the pitfalls of the Budapest track, managing to firmly confirm himself among the three fastest riders on the track until a sudden gray smoke escapes from the rear of the RA106 due to the failure of the Honda engine. The inconvenience cost the English driver ten penalty positions on the starting grid and the fourth place achieved in Saturday's qualifying only earned him the final fourteenth place. We arrive at Sunday, characterized from the early hours of the morning by an incessant rain. It starts in the wet with Raikkonen in pole position followed by Massa and Barrichello, with Schumacher eleventh and Alonso fifteenth due to respective penalties. Button is the author of a masterful start and at the first corner is already eleventh.
The Englishman threw all the frustration on the track for the engine failure and is the best interpreter of the changing conditions of the track which was slowly drying up. Between the fourth and fifth laps he overtakes Massa, Fisichella and Schumacher, even reaching fourth position. The Englishman is literally flying and quickly begins to catch up on the two McLarens that precede him. On the twenty-sixth lap the first twist: Raikkonen, second up to now, and Liuzzi, lapped, collide at the exit of turn 5 causing the Safety Car to enter the scene. Everyone rushed to the pits to change tires while Button, who had already stopped during the first laps, decides to stay out and climbs to second position.
When the safety car returned to the pit lane, three lapped cars got in the way between the Spaniard and the Englishman, and the Renault rider skilfully exploited the situation to his advantage, gaining six seconds in just one lap. When it seems the end, however, it is time for the second round of the pit stop: Button tries the undercut and keeps the intermediate tires while Alonso waits for the track to dry and delays the pit by five laps to mount the slicks but, at the back on the track, you immediately realize that the left rear is not well fixed, with the Spaniard losing control in turn 2 and crashing into the guards. It is an unexpected twist that paves the way for Button to control the race for the remaining twenty laps and go on to win his first career Grand Prix.
"It's an incredible day. The track conditions were really difficult but recovering from fourteenth position and winning the race... well, I think I could not have done better. The last lap, in particular, was a swing of emotions: knowing that I am first with over forty seconds of advantage and getting ready to cross the finish line in front of everyone is an incredible feeling. I have to thank the whole team, we have been through a lot, including a maxi disqualification, many podiums, we knew that before or then we would have won but we didn't expect it to happen this way. I think I've never seen so many people cry all together. A special thanks goes to them".
It is certainly the highest moment of a season that will give the English and the Honda team another podium at the last race held in Brazil, at Interlagos, and four more points in the points in the races in Turkey, China, Japan and Italy. These results allow him to be the driver to have scored the most points in the last six races of the championship (35) and to close a positive season, albeit far from the top of the World Championship, in sixth place in the drivers' standings with a total of 56 points. However, the promising end-of-season results are not confirmed in the next one: Lucky Strike, main sponsor of the Japanese team, announced at the end of 2006 its disengagement from Honda and Formula 1, leaving the team without a relevant sponsor. The loss of revenues deriving from the contract with the tobacco multinational has repercussions on the activity in the factory and on the results on the track.
The 2007 season will in fact be forgotten, with Honda being more remembered for the livery of its car representing a photo of the earth taken from space than for the results obtained on the track. The ecological car, so nicknamed because of the livery, will collect just 6 points throughout the season, all by Button, who will be able to enter the top eight only at the French Grand Prix (eighth), Italy (eighth) and China (fifth), finishing third from last in the constructors' standings ahead of the Super Aguri and Spyker. Honda's financial difficulties continue into 2008 and the new birth, the RA108, is a car with very little potential, along the lines of the previous single-seater. Button and Barrichello constantly navigate the slums of the grid and collect mostly withdrawals and placings outside the points.
Button scores points exclusively on the fourth round of the season at the Barcelona circuit while Barrichello does a little better than the Englishman by scoring three times and taking away the satisfaction of getting on the podium during the Silverstone Grand Prix, making the most of a chaotic race held in changing track conditions. Button closes a completely forgettable season in last place in the championship standings with only 3 points from the Spanish Grand Prix and Honda in last place in the constructors' one, with a total of 14 points. The financial difficulties that Honda has encountered in the last two seasons are exacerbated by the massive global economic crisis of 2008 which, among the numerous economic sectors, does not spare even the automotive one. In such a complicated context for all car manufacturers, Formula 1 soon becomes too expensive a project for many, Honda above all, and so, one month before the end of the season, the President and General Manager of the Japanese brand, Takeo Fukui, freezes the whole circus:
"Honda must protect its core businesses and ensure a long-term future in a time of global crisis. We have therefore decided to take rapid and flexible measures to counter this weakening of the market in all commercial sectors and therefore it has been decided to withdraw from participation in the Formula 1 World Championship".
The news spread quickly reaching even the most directly interested, including Button himself:
"I was waiting for my luggage at the airport when I received a call: Hi, Jenson. Honda retires, game over. I had no idea of such a choice, it was a terrible shock".
The need to safeguard the team's participation in the following year's world championship, that of Button and Barrichello not to remain without a seat in Formula 1 and that of hundreds of employees not to lose their jobs, soon brought a package of captained investors by Ross Brawn and within which the riders themselves are involved, to take over the team and all that is necessary to carry out the sporting activity, including the same Honda structures, for the symbolic sum of one pound. On March 6, 2009 comes the official announcement, through the press officer Hiroshi Oshima:
"Since the announcement of our retirement from Formula 1 on December 5th, we have explored various possibilities for the team to continue its activities in a new guise. We are very happy to have been able to sell the team to Ross Brawn, with whom we shared the challenges of the Formula 1 and we are grateful to him for this decision. We sincerely wish the new team that will be led by Ross".
Announcement to be followed by that of Ross Brawn himself:
"First of all it is a great pity that after working together with the Honda Motor Company for so long we can no longer continue together. I want to thank Honda for the fantastic support they have given us during this operation and in particular the management for the trust they have demonstrated towards myself and the team".
The team immediately got to work, continuing and finalizing the construction project of the new single-seater, a job on which Honda had begun to concentrate its efforts more than a year earlier. The Japanese manufacturer, given the poor results obtained in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, had decided to concentrate on the creation of a competitive car for the season that is about to begin, thanks to the change of regulations that would have allowed to mix, and not a little, the forces at play.
The new regulations, whose implementation takes place to allow second-tier teams to be able to battle with the most renowned teams with the most substantial budgets and which led to a tough tug-of-war between FIA and FOTA, provides for a simplification of aerodynamics, with simpler, larger front wings and taller, narrower rear wings. The flow deviators will also not be able to occupy their classic position in front of the side bellies, so the Brawn GP opts for the adoption of these components in a smaller size and in a much more advanced position. As for the front, totally renewed front suspension schemes were adopted and above all it was decided to lower the nose as much as possible, which went against the tendency to adopt the high nose preferred by the other teams.
In the rear area, the Brackley stable adopts a double diffuser, characterized by a slot that divides the air coming from the bottom in two directions: the classic one that brings the flows to flow on the lower surface of the extractor, plus another way that flows in a hole placed in an upper and central position. This double airway considerably increases the downforce generated at the rear, ensuring excellent traction useful for unloading the horses of the equipped Mercedes engine to the ground.
The team therefore presents itself to the usual pre-season tests on the Barcelona circuit, bringing with it the enthusiasm of the entire Circus, as told by Button himself:
"There is a special and at the same time very beautiful atmosphere: they all welcome us and congratulate us on having succeeded in this feat. We are on track and we can compete and I think this represents, regardless, a great victory".
The fledgling English team, however, is not limited to just participation but immediately demonstrates that it has an aerodynamic package with enormous potential, the result of unusual aerodynamic solutions and a high impact on performance. In this regard Button continues by telling a very curious anecdote:
"It was exciting to get back on track, I did a couple of lap times and went back to the pits, unfortunately complaining about the balance of the car: I was not satisfied with the behavior of the front end in the slow corners and the rear when exiting the fast ones, but my engineer He looked at me with a big smile on his face. Why are you laughing? I asked him, and he replied: We are the fastest. I didn't believe it, I told him that probably the other teams hadn't set fastest laps yet but he replied that, instead, everyone had already completed that part of the work program: We are five tenths of a second faster than everyone. of the tests we had more than a second of margin. I remember how euphoric all the mechanics were. It was unbelievable".
However, the surprising results of the Barcelona tests raise the doubts of most of the teams on the grid about the regularity of the car, sparking the concerns of the English driver:
"We arrived in Melbourne which all the teams considered our car to be illegal. It seemed absurd to have to fight even with this after all we had been through during the winter. So, out of anguish, I asked Ross if our car was in good condition. rule and he, reassuring me, said to me: Yes, now go out there and give your all. If you win, fine. We'll see the rest later".
After a series of problems suffered in free practice, Button dominates Saturday's qualifying, ahead of Barrichello by three tenths and Vettel by six. It is an absolute domination that is also repeated in the next day's race when, at the end of the fifty-eight laps on the semi-city circuit, without particular pitfalls from the opponents, one of the most beautiful pages in the history of Formula 1 is consumed: it is a double win. At the end of the race, all the emotion of the winner:
"All the clouds above our heads have now cleared. Needless to say how exciting this is. A big, big thank you goes to the whole team and the people at home. I wish I had the whole team here with me on the podium because this is a victory for all of us".
At the end of the race, in Melbourne it is clear to everyone that the performances of Brawn GP above all, and of Toyota and Williams later (even these teams have adopted the double rear diffuser from the early stages of design) could be unattainable to most people. much of the season.
After the splendid success of the debut race, we arrive in Malaysia, for the second round of the season. In qualifying, Button takes possession of the second consecutive pole position, followed just over a tenth by Trulli on Toyota and Vettel on Red Bull. At the start, Rosberg sprints well and takes the lead from sixth on the grid, while Button slips to fourth. The race is chaotic and Button climbs up to third position after overtaking Alonso, only to overcut when Rosberg and Trulli pit at the first pit stop.
A few laps after returning from the pits, an increasingly persistent rain begins to fall which will quickly become a real deluge, giving way to a waltz of pit stops and a continuous change of positions on the track, with Button and Glock on Toyota to dominate the scene. However, the rain falls so hard that there are no longer the minimum safety conditions and the race is thus suspended with Button in the lead ahead of Heidfeld on BMW, Glock and Trulli. The weather conditions will not change and the race will never resume, giving Button the second consecutive victory, albeit with halved points for not having completed 75% of the total distance.
After a third place conquered in China in similar track conditions in Malaysia, Button dominates the following four races in Bahrain, Spain, Monaco and Turkey, accompanied by two pole positions, going to ring an unthinkable string of results that allows him to dig a deep furrow between himself (61 points) and the first direct pursuer, Barrichello (35 points). At the end of the Grand Prix raced on the Istanbul circuit, the statements of the English driver are eloquent:
"Thanks guys, you built a monster car. Every lap I had a big smile: the car was so easy to drive that I could have done it for another two hundred laps. This car is outrageous, you are legends".
Despite the overwhelming results and the words that highlight the superiority of the new team's project, the first problems arise with the arrival of the summer season. In fact, the BGP 001 suffers from high temperatures and the problems translate into a sharp drop in performance in favor of its competitors, Red Bull above all. The Austrian team, in fact, is a car with undoubted technical qualities, the result of a pull-rod type suspension system that allows you to make the most of the tires, of a V-shaped groove on the front nose that allows you to channel the air flows in the underbody and, starting from the Monaco Grand Prix, also equipped with the double rear diffuser that had given Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams so much advantage at the beginning of the season. Red Bull's performances become, starting from the British Grand Prix, raced at Silverstone, a serious and constant threat to the supremacy of Button and Brawn GP.
Vettel prevails in England and finishes second in Germany, where teammate Webber wins, and shortens in the standings on Button (now minus 21 points) who does not go beyond a sixth and a fifth place. A similar situation also occurs in the three subsequent Grand Prix races in Hungary, Spain, on the Valencia street circuit, and in Belgium, in Spa, where the Englishman even reaches the edge of the points zone with two seventh places and will retire in Belgium. Winning will be Hamilton in Hungary, with Webber third and Vettel retired, Barrichello in Valencia with both Red Bulls retired, and Raikkonen in Spa with Vettel third. The abstinence from noteworthy results allow the English's main rivals to come dangerously close in the world championship standings, with Barrichello leading the way behind by sixteen points, Vettel by nineteen and Webber by twenty and a half points. A worrying situation, as stated later by the English driver himself:
"To be honest, we did not expect a similar situation. In addition to suffering from high temperatures, one of the further reasons was certainly the failure to develop the car. Unlike what everyone thought, the cause was not the low budget: we had the money but when we realized we had to develop our car to maintain a high level of performance it was too late. We weren't the best car on the grid anymore, Red Bull was. They were innovative enough to change the way people they looked to aerodynamics".
Five races from the end of the season we reach Monza. Saturday's qualifying relegates the two Brawn GPs to the third row, with Barrichello in front of Button and the two Red Bulls further back in the fifth row, while Hamilton will sign the pole position. In the race, the two British single-seaters start well and, using a different strategy on a single pit stop, they delay the stop and accumulate the advantage necessary to seize the first two positions that they will keep until the end of the race. Barrichello wins in front of Button and significantly shortens the championship standings, while for the Red Bulls it is a day to forget with Webber forced to retire due to a collision with Kubica and Vettel only eighth that sees their chances of winning the World Championship vanish almost completely.
In the next race we arrive in Singapore. Button struggles to find pace since free practice, unable to bring the tires up to temperature. Qualifying will deliver a bitter verdict for the Englishman with Vettel second, Barrichello in fifth position and Jenson, who fails to overcome the cut in Q2, in twelfth position. In an interview released at the end of the Championship, the Englishman talks about the feelings that accompanied him until the start of the race the following day:
"In Singapore I realized that everything could turn into a nightmare, with the Red Bulls starting from the front row. In qualifying I was unable to bring the tires up to temperature also because of my not very aggressive driving. I really tried in every way but it didn't help. To be honest, even though the rankings said Ruben was my first opponent, I wasn't worried about him: we had the same car and we both shared the same problems. It was the Red Bulls that worried me most".
In the race, however, the situation is reversed: Webber is forced to retire due to a brake problem, Barrichello is the victim of pit-stop problems that make him lose his position in favor of Button and Vettel, who suffers the same problems accused from team mate, is the victim of a drive-through for excessive speed in the pit lane and fails to go beyond the fourth place finish, with Button fifth and Barrichello sixth. The Asian race hands the World Cup into the hands of the Englishman, who must now manage fifteen points ahead of Barrichello and twenty-five over Vettel with three races to go. In Japan Vettel wins, with Barrichello seventh and the English eighth and, two games from the end, we reach Brazil where Button is playing the first match-point. For the Englishman, it is enough to finish fourth or fifth, with Barrichello not the winner, to be crowned World Champion.
Qualifying on Saturday is affected by torrential rain and Button fails to set noteworthy times: he will once again be eliminated in Q2 with the final fourteenth position while Barrichello, driven by the enthusiasm of the thousands of Brazilian fans, scores an amazing pole position ahead of Webber and Sutil's Force India. Once again, however, the Englishman is able to overturn the situation in the race: he takes advantage of a chaotic first lap characterized by several accidents to quickly climb the rankings and, once the safety car is back in the pit lane, he manages to reassemble up to the seventh square to the sound of overtaking.
Meanwhile, Barrichello maintains the first position but is tailed by Webber who has more fuel on board and, once the Brazilian rider returns to the pits, builds the margin on the track that allows him to conquer the first position at the end of the pit stop. Button, who started with a lot of fuel on board, delays the stop and after the pit stop overtakes Buemi and moves to seventh position. Barrichello, meanwhile, loses pace and is also overtaken by Vettel before being the victim of a puncture that will make him retreat behind his teammate who, having crossed the finish line, becomes World Champion.
"It was definitely a crazy year, thinking about where we were in the winter, with no teams at the moment, World Champions drivers and constructors. It was like riding a roller coaster, or being the protagonist of a Hollywood movie. It's not It was easy, there have been a lot of mixed emotions throughout the year, especially the last few weeks have been really difficult: you go to bed at night thinking about qualifying and the race and when you wake up you just think about the same things. you think about it even when you sleep. Today was not particularly different from the last few races: I did the maneuvers I had to do when I had to and the pace was good too, especially when I had a clear path ahead. I'm World Champion, it's unbelievable. A special thanks goes to these guys. guys, they are unique".
At the end of a season to be framed, however, the first frictions between Button and Brawn GP emerge about the bonuses that the team should have paid to the driver, leading to a clear split between the parties. If we add to this news the fact that the team was soon to be acquired by the Mercedes group, it becomes clear that the World Champion driver was once again looking for a different location to continue winning. McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is among the numerous contenders: Button signs a three-year contract with the Woking team and the choice is soon justified by the English driver himself:
"Why did I choose McLaren? I knew they could offer me a car capable of winning and that's why I signed up for them".
The competitiveness shown towards the end of the season that has just ended, and the possibility of driving a single-seater that would allow him to fight for the world championship again, are the main reasons that lead to the marriage between the parties. In McLaren Button goes to pair with another undisputed talent and, despite his young age already World Champion, who takes the name of Lewis Hamilton, forming one of the strongest pairs on the grid. The relationship between the two, however, is struggling to take off: Hamilton considers the team's choice to sign a World Champion as a threat to its leadership. Button for his part is a rider who needs specific technical and aerodynamic solutions to enhance his clean driving style, and for this reason it will often lead to misunderstandings and power struggles between the two drivers to see their needs translated into specifics of the car.
The new MP4-25 of the Woking team is a car with a reduced wheelbase, which is to the detriment of a tall driver like Button, who presents a very innovative aerodynamic solution and, soon, contested by the main opponents on the grid: the single-seater is equipped with a sort of sail that connects the air scope with the rear wing in which there is an opening renamed blowhole, which allows the air channeled by the air scope itself to reach directly towards the rear and, through a movement of the pilot's knee, to stall the aileron in straights allowing to reach much higher top speeds than normal. We arrive at the debut of the season at the Bahrain circuit, where Button's first difficulties with the new car emerge: the Englishman closes the race in seventh place while Hamilton overtakes Vettel in the final laps and climbs to the lowest step of the podium. However, more than on the final result, the team's attention shifts to a detail that occurs on the track: during the race, a sudden 90° change in wind direction causes a loss of downforce at the front of the car. Button immediately realizes what has happened, unlike Hamilton. Paddy Lowe himself, chief of track engineers, tells the background:
"From the data we could see exactly what had happened. The wind had completely changed direction and, as the car passed through it in the corners, there was a drastic but very short reduction in the front downforce. It happened on both cars and was completely frightening. Jenson; Lewis didn't even notice".
It is the signal that Button represents the right figure to guarantee an adequate development of the car and actually this is what will happen from that moment on, helping to further cool the relationship between the two teammates. An eighth place in the Malaysian Grand Prix is interspersed with two splendid victories, both in critical weather conditions, on the Melbourne and Shanghai circuits, further proof of the Frome driver's class for chaotic races and in extremely difficult and variable conditions. At the end of the first four races of the season, the balance in the world championship standings is eloquent, and this is confirmed by the English driver himself:
"There is great balance at the top. And in a certain sense it is surprising also by virtue of the recent changes. I think I was not the only one - among drivers and professionals - to think that the new scoring system would have favored more drivers who are faster than simply more regular ones. In the first three races we have seen how important the reliability of the car and the consistency of performance count. If we still used the same scoring system in force last year, the current ranking would not change compared to the hypothetical one. Which is more than interesting. I think it will take a few more races to get a clearer picture, but regularity in the results will always be important: I think it will be the decisive interpretation".
These two races are followed by a fifth place in Spain and a retirement due to the failure of the Mercedes engine in Monaco, results that cost Button the top of the world classification, albeit with an eight-point gap from the leader Webber. We arrive in Turkey, where a new episode of internal strife between McLaren drivers is staged. At the end of free practice on Friday, Button proposes a change of the front wing of the car and Hamilton opposes, but the team opts for the choice of Button and the result is consequent: the situation overheats and the tension between the two standard bearers pours on the track.
With ten laps to go, the two McLarens, who started in second and fourth position, find themselves fighting for the victory and start a spectacular battle. Button overtakes Hamilton in turn 12 but the young Englishman returns the favor on the following lap with a rough maneuver that causes contact between the two cars, albeit without consequences. At this point, to avoid a fratricidal battle as occurred between the two Red Bulls a few laps earlier and which had caused Vettel to retire, the engineers ordered the positions to be frozen. Hamilton wins in front of Button and Webber.
This result is followed by second place in Montréal, third in Valencia and two placings off the podium in the home race at Silverstone and Hockenheim, but on all four occasions Hamilton precedes Button and thus overtakes him in the World Championship standings, taking the top (157 points against Button's 143 and the 136 of both Red Bull drivers). In the hottest moment of the season, however, the most disappointing results arrive: the reigning World Champion starts eleventh in Hungary and ends only in eighth position while in Belgium he ends another complicated race with an accident with Vettel, moving away almost irremediably from the top of the standings occupied by Hamilton with thirty-five points margin.
Hopes rise following the Italian Grand Prix: McLaren, given the numerous disagreements between the drivers during the season, allows them to privately make the changes they deem most appropriate. Button makes the right choices and qualifies in second position behind Alonso in Ferrari. In the race, he immediately takes the lead which, however, he loses following the overcut of Alonso who overtakes him, going to take a memorable victory in front of the home crowd. Button, now twenty-two points away from the top of the standings, raises his claim to the title but two fourth places in the appointments in Singapore and Japan and a bad twelfth place in Korea definitively remove him from the dream of repeating the victory of the previous year. He closes the season with a fifth place in Brazil and a third in the last round in Abu Dhabi when Vettel will be crowned World Champion at the end of a memorable comeback on Webber and Alonso.
For the 2011 season McLaren decided to reward the great work done by Button himself in the previous championship to improve the car, and in the development of the car he decided to follow his ideas more, to the detriment of those of Hamilton. The result leads to the creation of the new MP4-26, a single-seater that best matches the characteristics of Button and that makes the driver himself a leader within the team.
"The development of the new car and the modifications made to it make a big difference for me. I have worked with the team very hard to develop the car in the direction that suits me the most, and I'm sure the choice will pay off over the course of the season. I felt quite comfortable in the car last year, I had some really good races, but when the car has already started to develop it takes a long time to change it in the direction that suits you best sure that the development of the new car will bring benefits both for me and for Lewis".
The 2011 season also brings with it a substantial change: Pirelli is the new tire supplier and the compounds brought to the track will be very soft, which is a great advantage for riders with a clean driving style, such as Button which could considerably extend the life of the tires and thus be more flexible with strategies. The good expectations that the team and the British standard bearer have in the new season are however swept away by Vettel and Red Bull, capable of putting a cannibal car on the track with unapproachable potential for all competitors. In the first six qualifying sessions of the season, Red Bull always places their car in front of everyone, also dominating the races on Sunday with Vettel hitting five wins in six races and finishing second in the Chinese Grand Prix, won by Hamilton. Button finished second in Malaysia and hit two thirds in Spain and Monte Carlo, finishing just behind Hamilton in the overall standings.
We therefore arrive in Canada for the seventh round of the season. A disappointing qualifying relegates the McLarens to fifth and seventh position, with Hamilton ahead of Button. A pouring rain is the setting for one of the craziest Sundays in the history of Formula 1. It starts behind the safety car with Vettel on pole in front of Alonso, and when the safety car returns to the pit lane, the twists and turns begin: Hamilton and Webber come into contact in turn 1, with the Australian spinning and the English blocked by Red Bull itself. To take advantage is Button himself, who thus climbs to fifth position. On the eighth lap, however, a furious Hamilton for the contact at the start of the race goes close to Button and tries to overtake on the straight. But Button closes the trajectory and the two come into contact: Hamilton damages the front wing and breaks the rear suspension after also touching the wall, and is forced to retire.
The race continued in torrential rain and on lap nineteenth the critical conditions of the track and visibility convinced the FIA to suspend the race. The race resumes after 90 minutes of interruption and ten laps are made behind the safety car. On his return to the pit lane, on lap 37, Button and Alonso are the protagonists of a contact in turn 3, with the Spaniard ending up on the wall and the English punching his front left tire and forced to make his fourth pit- stop, ending up in the queue of the group.
It seems the epilogue of an unlucky race but it is only the beginning of a race with special contours: the track is drying and Webber and Button are the first to enter the pits to mount the slick tires. It is the correct choice and the two recovered in a few laps, respectively up to the third and fourth position, with Vettel leading the race alone in front of Schumacher. The trio behind Vettel soon began an intense battle and on the sixty-fourth lap Webber, intent on overtaking Schumacher, went long at the final chicane, giving the way clear to Button who moved up to third position and began to lap at a frenzied pace.
In a few laps he gets rid of the German champion and begins the hunt for Vettel, in trouble with the tires. At the beginning of the last lap the two are separated by a few seconds and Vettel, with the tires now at the limit, goes wide from the second chicane and leaves the top of the race to Button who incredibly goes to win a crazy race, one of the most beautiful of the last twenty years of Formula 1. In an interview released a few years later, the English rider retraces the stages of what he himself defined as his most beautiful race:
"As for the incident with Lewis, I can only say that I did not see him, so much so that immediately after the contact I did not realize what was happening. Once I understood what had happened, I remember shouting over the radio blaming Lewis for it. Fortunately at the end of the race we clarified and he, recognizing that I saw him, did not blame me. The accident with Alonso? Neither of us wanted to give up the position, and so we touched. I remember that once I got into the pit, I saw the eyes of Ron Dennis, literally lifeless. One of his drivers had already retired, there the other has painted five times and was last. I don't think he was in the best of moods. If I ever thought I could win it? Probably not, but my track engineer did: he kept cheering me on and telling me that I could win and at the beginning of the last lap he told me that if I took the DRS I would have to come on try the last chicane. Fortunately it was not necessary and when I saw Vettel's Red Bull go wide at the chicane I was literally stunned. I held my breath and continued to watch it even once I passed it. In the end I won the race with the lead only half a lap. I remember never having seen everyone so happy".
It is the highest moment of a season that will give another two splendid successes in the Hungarian Grand Prix (also here in wet conditions) and Japan, and six podiums, allowing the Englishman to finish second in the championship standings, although very far from a Vettel literally ferocious, capable of winning eleven races out of the total nineteen and to be crowned World Champion at the Japanese Grand Prix, in Suzuka, with four races to spare. However, Button's season is the one that crowns him as the true leader of McLaren, proving once again to be a silent and confident foreman of the work to be done, fast but at the same time calculating and aimed at the constant development of the car. In a championship where he is outclassed by Hamilton in qualifying (13-6), Button finishes second with forty-three points ahead of his teammate, preceding him on numerous occasions. A concept, that of a very fast Button in the race, also taken up by Martin Withmarsh:
"Throughout the season Jenson drove with great confidence and fluidity. He almost always had a very fast pace and at the same time he knew how to control it. He used his experience and intelligence to preserve the tires and be really competitive. A lot of people underestimate it. Jenson because he is always so relaxed, but I can assure you that he is an extremely competitive person who never gives up".
His track engineer, Phil Prew, also expressed himself on the same topic:
"Jenson knew what to do. He knew exactly what the tire target was and how they were going to make the strategy work, which also involved tinkering with the tires a little to make sure they last until the deadline".
Finally, the considerations of the Button himself:
"I think I drove quite well during my world championship season, especially in the first part of the championship, but I am undoubtedly a better rider now thanks to the experience I have accumulated. I am really happy, I think it is a great opportunity for the next few years to work on close contact with McLaren. We are so close to fighting with Red Bull, and at the same time so far away. I think the difference will be continuity".
For the 2012 season the Woking team decides to present a car that is the most different in terms of interpretation of the regulations. The new MP4-27 of the British team has a very low center of gravity and does not resort to the classic step on the nose. The side bellies are also revisited and, thanks to the new regulations that do not allow the use of blown exhausts, the U-shaped design that had characterized the 2011 car is abandoned. The suspensions are also of the push-rod type at the front and pull-rod type at the rear. The season begins in a promising light, with both standard bearers monopolizing the front row of the Melbourne Grand Prix with Hamilton on pole, but Button will win the race ahead of Vettel and Hamilton himself.
It seems the beginning of another dazzling season but the championship evolves in a completely unexpected way. In second place obtained at the third round of the season in China, they are offset by five placings outside the points zone in the first seven races. Button suffers from the new Pirelli compounds, this time very difficult to warm up especially at the front, and his clean ride does not help him solve the problem but ends up making it worse. The British standard bearer tries in every possible way to remedy a situation that is paradoxical, if only one thinks of how much his driving style has positively influenced the results obtained just a season earlier: Jenson tries on several occasions different types of brakes built with as many different materials, but without convincing results. Added to this problem is a car which, due to the impediment of the use of blown exhausts, has lost a lot of downforce in the rear axle, all at the expense of its driving style much more oriented towards stable rear ends. At the end of the Canadian Grand Prix, which ended in sixteenth place, the words of the same driver also arrive:
"I have no idea what to do right now and whenever we have good ideas we don't seem to make any progress. I love to drive a Formula 1 car, so I'm confident every time I get in the saddle, but then after two laps I don't there's no grip anywhere. Obviously the car with a certain set-up is very fast but today's car wasn't a winning car at all. It's been the same for a couple of races and I don't know why why, it's normally something I'm pretty good at. I'm driving a second and a half slower to the lap of the leader and one is my teammate, but I can't go faster".
Button thus begins a work of adapting his driving style to try to allow the tires to work in the ideal window of use and, thanks to the developments of his McLaren, the results of the second half of the season improve considerably and return within acceptable limits for a World Champion. The Englishman wins in Belgium and Brazil, also conquering the podium at Hockenheim and Singapore, finishing in fifth place in the general classification just two points behind his teammate Hamilton. The poor results obtained during the season, a Formula 1, now very different from the one he had known at its inception, lead the English champion to give in to a harsh criticism of the circus itself:
"I used to like racing better. You had to read the race, interpret it, plan a tactic. Now the more you think about a strategy, the more you mess. It's too strange a year, we don't understand each other much. In a race you have to manage the tires. and stop as little as possible, the next you have to push like crazy to make more stops. It's frustrating because you have to get out on the track and decide what to do after the first lap".
Starting from the 2013 season, the Woking team is facing a long period of technical crisis. The British team's new car, the MP4-28, suffers from chronic instability and understeer, to which are added a distinct lack of rear downforce which causes high tire degradation. Button and the new teammate Sergio Peréz will be able to enter the points consistently, but will remain for most of the season very far from Red Bull, who will go on to win his fourth World Championship in a row with Vettel, Ferrari and Mercedes, who own from 2013 he begins his climb towards the Olympus of motorsport. The British team is positioned in fifth place in the constructors' championship, with Button finishing his season in ninth place with 73 points, with the fourth position on the occasion of the last round of the season at the Interlagos circuit as the best result. Although Ferrari has been looking for Jenson Button to replace Felipe Massa for years, the British driver will decide to stay in front of McLaren:
"There was a good chance of racing for Ferrari, but in the end we didn't finish. Basically the contract was ready to be signed, but for various reasons it didn't happen. There is something special in Maranello, I would have liked to dress the Ferrari suit ".
The beginning of 2014 is the advent of the 1.6-liter turbo V6 engines, which replace the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter V8s. To this fundamental innovation are added the new technical regulations. The KERS is retired and is replaced by the ERS, the system that collects the thermal energy of the turbocharger. In addition, the limit of 100 kilos of fuel to be used in the race is imposed and exhausts, nose clearance and ailerons are also modified. The new MP4-29 is the direct evolution of the car that had brought so few results in the previous season, so the script is almost identical: the only novelty concerns the new teammate, Magnussen, who joins Button.
"We are one of the few teams that comes here without an upgrade kit on the car, free practice will be very interesting. This car feels good, but we need to develop it because we are not fast enough at the moment. We have a good starting position but there is a lot we need to do to enter the challenge for the first position".
Despite a car that lacks front downforce and rear stability, the two standard bearers of the Woking team, also thanks to the disqualification of Ricciardo for irregularities in the fuel flow, hit a double podium with Magnussen second and Button third to collect what will be his fiftieth and last career podium. At the end of the race, however, all thoughts are turned to his father John, who passed away in January of the same year:
"I'm sure I'll miss him a lot. Like it or not, my dad was always the last person to give me a high-five or a pat before getting in the car. Even though I was already in the car and trying to concentrate, he was always there to make sure you give me the last hug".
The rest of the season will not give other joys similar to the British driver, who will close the season with another four placings close to the podium and eighth position in the world championship standings with a total of 126 points, more than double his young teammate (55 points). At the end of another subdued season, it is time to leave to redeem the disappointing results of the last two seasons. To succeed in this difficult undertaking, McLaren decides to rely no longer on Mercedes engines, but on Honda's, recomposing a combination that had made fans dream so much in the glorious days of Senna. Furthermore, for the third consecutive year the Woking team decides for another change of its drivers, opting for the return of another champion like Alonso, thus fielding one of the strongest line-ups among those present on the grid. This news undoubtedly unleashes the enthusiasm not only of the fans but also of Button himself:
"I respect Fernando and I am happy to be able to race in the team with him. Alonso is a champion, a two-time World Champion, I love having strong teammates as a benchmark to see what can be done with the same car. I am very motivated, I deserve it of this team and also of the return of a giant like Honda. I have always wanted to compare myself with Fernando, I am sure it will come out an excellent collaboration for the benefit of the team. We are experienced drivers, who have lapped a lot, and will bring this wealth of experience as a dowry to an almost new team. I do not see the team. now to be able to discover Alonso's strengths, but also his weaknesses. I feel like a kid in a candy store".
Despite the enthusiasm of the pre-season, the drivers and the team have to deal with a hard return to reality: the new car, the MP4-30, suffers from a chronic deficit of traction which is mainly reflected when exiting the corners and aerodynamically is still far from the top teams. Furthermore, starting from the pre-season tests of Jeréz and then from those of Barcelona, it is known how the real Achilles heel will be the power unit of the Japanese company, clearly inferior to its competitors in terms of pure power, and highly problematic from the point of view. reliability.
The season immediately reveals itself as one of the worst in the glorious history of the British team, with both drivers struggling to pass the Q1 cut in qualifying and in the race will struggle to stay close to their rivals. Button will finish only four races in the points, thanks to sixth place in the United States, in Austin, as the best finish for a total of 17 final points, while Alonso will do better in terms of overall placement with fifth place in Hungary, but with two only placements in the top-ten for a total of 11 final points.
The main problem of the Honda Power Unit is the inability to be able to use the energy recovered from the ERS in an efficient way, or in any case at the same level as what is done by competitors. For this reason, during the winter leading up to the 2016 season, the Japanese company works hard on the turbine and compressor of the engine, trying to solve the serious problems accused the previous season.
"Progress is massive in that area. It is something we knew we had to do and that Honda worked hard on over the winter. The energy use of the ERS is not something we could have permanently addressed last year but during the winter Honda did an exceptional job. We had no reliability problems during the Barcelona tests and it is already a big difference from last year. In some circuits, last year, we were losing six tenths per lap because we didn't have that surplus of power. Now the system works well and the gap from our opponents is marginal, at least in these terms, so it's a big and necessary step forward that we had to take".
Thanks to these sensitive but decisive improvements, McLaren leaves the slums of the grid and returns to appear in the points area with some regularity, especially with Alonso, while Button will suffer more from the car's lack of competitiveness. The 2016 World Championship will be another difficult year for the Englishman and for the team, with Button conquering his best finish in the Austrian Grand Prix with a sixth place finish and a total of 21 points in the overall standings. A result definitely below the performance of Alonso, who will enter the points area with greater regularity and will finish the championship with a total of 54 points and tenth place in the standings.
After several years of little competitiveness and disappointing results, Button decides to retire from the world of Formula 1 with a score of fifteen wins, eight pole positions and fifty podiums, and the memory of a fantastic World Championship won with a team, up to a few months before, practically failed. He then becomes a works Honda driver, competing in Japanese SuperGT and winning the championship in 2018. One year later he founds his own racing team, Jenson Team Rocket, where he himself drives the car, a McLaren 720S GT3. For 2021 season he announces he will race in the brand-new Extreme E Championship.