How has Jenson Button’s motoring career developed over time? The driver, who is currently with McLaren, won his only Drivers’ World Championship in 2009 with Brawn GP, and is the current face of McLaren Grand Prix Merchandise. From being a karting prodigy in the 1990s, Button’s career has seen him struggle to build on his early potential, before progressing towards his one-off title win in 2009 and a stable position on the Formula Tour in the past few years.
Born in Somerset in 1980, Button began go karting at any early age, and won his first trophy, the British Super Prix, at age nine. He went on to drive as part of British Cadet championships, and took trophies that included the British Open Kart Championships, the Ayrton Senna Memorial Cup, and the European Super A Championship during the 1990s, making him one of the most promising of a new generation of drivers in the UK.
Button switched to car racing in 18, and began to compete in the British Formula Ford Championship and Formula Three with Promatecme. Although he attracted the attention of McLaren during this time, he eventually moved to Williams, becoming one of the youngest drivers in the World Championship. In his first season, he took a respectable eighth place overall.
Williams and Benetton
However, Button’s career struggled to build momentum, with his subsequent move to Benetton leading to criticism over a playboy lifestyle away from the track. He then experienced problems as part of the British American Racing team from 2003 to 2005, which included a crash in Monaco that temporarily put him out of action. A blocked move to Williams also produced a lingering conflict with BAR, which became Honda Racing in 2006.
Honda and Brawn GP
Button picked up his first Grand Prix victory in 2007 at the Hungarian Grand Prix, but found himself overshadowed by Lewis Hamilton’s emergence at McLaren. However, in 2009, racing for a Honda team that renamed itself as Brawn GP following their original owner’s departure from the sport, Button finally found some consistency, and was able to win his only World Championship to date with one Grand Prix to spare.
Since 2010, though, Button hasn’t been able to climb to the same heights. He joined McLaren in 2010, but again played a secondary role to Lewis Hamilton, despite becoming one of the well paid drivers in the sport. Over the past few years, Button and McLaren have had to contend with the performance of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, with Button finishing fifth in the Drivers’ Championship in 2012. As of the end of the 2013 season, he’s currently in ninth position, and is set for another year of relative underachievement. While Button is unlikely to want to leave McLaren in the near future, whether he’ll be able to get back to his brief performance levels of 2009 is questionable.
Sean Phillips blogs about everything to do with Formula One. He’s currently collecting McLaren Grand Prix Merchandise. His other blogging interests include motocross and rugby.