Monday, October 19, 2009

0 Jenson Button : 2009 world champion!

Jenson Button has joined the elite group of race drivers to have won the world championship. His fifth position in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix was enough to clinch the title from Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello.

Button is the tenth British champion following in the footsteps of Mike Hawthorn, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and the out-going champion Lewis Hamilton.

His string of six wins from the first seven races equalled a record set by Clark and Michael Schumacher and formed the foundation of his championship campaign. While his final win of the season came at Istanbul in June - pending the last round of the season in Abu Dhabi - since then he was able to score points on a regular basis much to the frustration of his rivals.

Button has had his fair share of critics for his performance in the second half of the championship, but had he started the season with points paying finishes and ended the season with a string of victories, his success would have, arguably, been seen in a differing light.

He may not have the flair of some of his rivals and may not put the car right on the limit week in week out, but his Brazilian race was a very good performance and with more points than his rivals, he has achieved his career objective of championship success following many years of loyalty to Honda and its new successor, Brawn GP.

In view of his team having taken the constructors' crown as well, Button's title caps what has been a fairytale success story for the Brawn team, an outfit which came close to shutting its doors mere weeks before the 2009 championship began. The BGP 001 completed its first on-track testing only a month before the season's first race


Jenson Button’s breakthrough Formula One win finally came with Honda at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix. For the man himself it was vindication of his controversial decision to buy himself out of his contract with Williams - the team that gave him his race debut back in 2000. For his fans and admirers it was merely proof of what they knew all along - that the Englishman just needed the right equipment to get the job done!

Before his Formula One dry spell, winning had been something of a habit for Button. As an eight year-old he had triumphed in his first karting race, despite starting from the back of the grid in wet conditions. Crowned the British Cadet kart champion aged 10, he took the same series with even greater ease the following year after winning all 34 races.

Quickly outgrowing his home competition, a string of international karting titles followed. Button became the youngest winner of the European Super A championship and the youngest runner-up in the Formula A world championship. He completed his karting career with victory in the 1997 Ayrton Senna Memorial Cup at Suzuka, before making the inevitable move to single-seaters.

In 1998 he won the highly competitive British Formula Ford championship at his first attempt with nine wins for Haywood Racing. He also took victory in the Formula Ford Festival, finished second in the European championship and landed the prestigious McLaren/Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award. So rapid was his career progress that Button already seemed like a big fish in a small pond and he promptly moved up to British Formula Three for 1999.

Claiming three victories, seven podiums and third overall in his debut season, Button fully deserved his ‘Rookie of the Year’ honour and it wasn’t long before his successes were rewarded with a Formula One test. First for McLaren and then for Prost, Button wowed with his pace and ability, before Williams offered him a race drive for 2000.

Williams’ decision to sign Button - at 20, Britain’s youngest ever Grand Prix driver - resulted in unparalleled hype and expectation, but the scrutiny didn’t affect their new star’s performance. Indeed, a point in his second race, third on the grid at Spa and eighth in the championship meant the young Briton’s reputation as a smooth and unflappable driver remained firmly intact, even if he did score less than half the points of team mate Ralf Schumacher.

In spite of his apparent success, Button was farmed out by Williams to Benetton for the next two years. The time proved largely frustrating. His 2001 performances were hampered by a difficult car, while in 2002 he struggled to match team mate Jarno Trulli in qualifying and was left disappointed by a run of bad luck in races. He was replaced by Fernando Alonso for 2003, but would show his mettle once more following a move to BAR.

Button’s mature performances that year helped see the future Honda squad through a difficult season and he overshadowed veteran team mate Jacques Villeneuve in the process. The next year Villeneuve was replaced by Takuma Sato and, as such, Button became the team’s number-one. With the Honda-BAR partnership at last finding its feet, the British driver scored 10 podiums and finished an impressive third in the drivers’ championship, despite not winning a single race. The only sour note was the long-running dispute over who had the future rights to Button’s services. Williams was ultimately the answer, though their protege would eventually remain with BAR/Honda, after successfully negotiating a release from his contract.

Over recent seasons, many have questioned whether Button made the right decision. After their runners-up position in 2004, BAR fell to sixth in the constructors’ championship the following year, and although a Honda takeover in 2006 helped bring Button that deserved and emotional first win at the Hungaroring, the team’s form subsequently declined, culminating in Honda’s withdrawal from Formula One at the end of 2008.

The left Button’s career in limbo for a few months, before a management buyout of the former Honda team put him back on the grid for 2009. Brawn GP proved to be a revelation, with Button winning six of the first seven races en route to finally securing his first drivers' title with one round of the season to spare.

89/96 Karting, International, 3° (1996)
1997 Karting F. Super A, Europe, 1°
1998 FFord & Ford Festival, 1°
1999 F3, England, 3°
2000 F1 (Williams), 8°, 12 points
2001 F1 (Benetton), 17°, 2 points
2002 F1 (Renault), 7°, 14 points
2003 F1 (BAR), 9°, 17 points
2004 F1 (BAR), 3°, 85 points
2005 F1 (BAR), 9°, 37 points
2006 F1 (Honda), 6°, 56 points
2007 F1 (Honda), 15°, 6 points
2008 F1 (Honda), 18°, 3 points
2009 F1 (Brawn), Champion, 89 points (Brazilian Grand Prix)

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