If you had been Jenson Button at the end of the 2008 Formula one season, there would have been two thoughts racing through your mind; 1) Where am I going to be driving next season and 2) How come I can’t be Lewis Hamilton; the first Brit to win the Formula One world Championship since Damon Hill in 1996?
Honda’s shock exit from the sport at the end of the 2008 F1 season seemingly curtailed a career which, in 2000 looked to be vastly promising. But there was a silver lining emerging behind the dark cloud left by Honda.
The 2009 Formula One season brought a glimmer of hope, as Ross Brawn of Bennetton and Ferrari fame bought the Honda F1 squad and, (I will now be cliche here) through hard work and determination, turned a gloomy team suffering from nostalgia of what used to be into a sparkling new, and immensely competitive Formula One outfit. Surely, winning six out of the first seven races of the 2009 season was unexpected to say the least. Even more fortuitous was the fact that the competitiveness stayed, albeit with a few hiccups along the way. What started out as a good dream ended up a whirlwind fantasy fulfilled as Jenson Button crossed the finish line at Interlagos as not only the 5th place finisher, but as a new World Champion.
The F1 paddock was in an absolute tizzy after the crowning of a new and thoroughly deserving champion in Jenson Button, but sheer bewilderment was on the horizon.
The announcement of Jenson’s move to Mclaren was seen as not only a shock, but a complete and utter misjudgment. Up and down the paddock rang questions of whether stepping into the lion’s den that is Lewis Hamilton’s Mclaren team was either a blunder or a brilliant brain wave.
The 2010 season certainly started off well. Winning two of the first four races certainly proved Jenson wasn’t a one-hit wonder, at least for now. he scored consistently enough to stay in the championship hunt until the penultimate race. Wins, however, were elusive after his first two and as a result, he would have to wait another year to add to his championship tally.
In 2011, Jenson wasn’t showing the startling speed that we saw at the beginning of 2010. He didn’t win until the astonishing race in Canada, where, coming from the absolute back of the grid, Jenson fought his way to the front to take the lead from Vettel on the very last lap. Calling this his best ever race, Jenson’s victory in Canada in 2011 will go down in the history books as one of the most unexpected ever.
Two more wins and six further podiums brought his podium tally up to 12 and his championship position to second behind the dominant Sebastian Vettel. He also convincingly outscored a struggling Lewis Hamilton who finished a slightly distant 5th in the championship. This sensational finish to the 2011 season set the stage for a full-on championship challenge for 2012. I was one of many who thought that 2012 was the year we would get a brand-new double World Champion.
The new season started out marvelously with a win in Australia and a second in China. Results after this, grievously, were few and far between. Not until Germany did Jenson enjoy any decent success. The major update brought to Mclaren in Germany once again made the MP4-27 the class of the field. He was a regular podium contender for the rest for the rest of the season, but by now the championship was out of his reach. Three wins total were just reminders of what could have been that year.
For 2013, Jenson has a new teammate in Sergio Perez. A bit of an unknown quantity, the young Mexican will be the perfect way to become the clear number 1 in the woking squad as he tries for another championship in 2013. Whether the car will be up to scratch remains to be seen, but if it starts out as a winner, you can be assured it will stay that way.
After three years at Mclaren, 2008 seems like a distant memory. Jenson no longer has to worry about not being the slowest car in qualifying, or whether he will be lapped 2 or 3 times in a certain race. All he has to worry about is whether he can get on the front row and dominate the race from there. Not so bad, eh?
If outscoring Lewis Hamilton over their three years at Mclaren together is a reliable benchmark of how well Jenson did over the course of those seasons, I’d say Jenson is certainly set for the rest of his career which is certain to end at the Woking squad.
Jenson’s future success surely is due to the events of 2008-2009. If you had asked him during 2008 what he would be doing in five years’ time, you can bet he wouldn’t say fighting for a world championship. Now the world waits with bated breath for the emergence of Britain’s first multiple world champion since Jackie Stewart. Don’t be at all surprised if this happens, for stranger things have happened. The 2009 F1 season will attest to that.