Jenson hits the double ton!
Jenson Button has come a long way since he started his Formula 1 career eleven years ago. Still only 31 years old, he’s now one of the sport’s most experienced drivers – at today’s Hungarian Grand Prix, he’ll line up on the grid for the 200th time in his career.
It was Sir Frank Williams who brought Jenson into the top echelon of motorsport in 2000 after pitting him against Brazilian racer Bruno Junqueira in a “shootout” test to see who was fastest. Jenson came out on top and the second BMW-Williams seat was his.
He became the youngest-ever British Formula 1 driver when he made his race debut at the 2000 Australian Grand Prix aged just 20 years and 53 days. He fought his way through the field and was on course to score a point, but his engine expired 11 laps from the chequered flag.
It wouldn’t be long before he managed his first points-paying finish though – he came home sixth at the very next race, the Brazilian Grand Prix, becoming the youngest driver ever to score a Formula 1 World Championship point.
His standout performances that year were finishing fourth at the chaotic German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, as well as stunning the Formula 1 paddock by qualifying third for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. Although he collided with Jarno Trulli’s Jordan at the La Source hairpin during the Belgian race, Jenson still finished fifth in the changeable conditions.
Loaned out to Benetton for 2001 and 2002 (the team became Renault in 2002), Jenson outperformed team-mate Jarno Trulli during his second season with the team but moved to British American Racing for 2003. That year he proved his worth against his world championship-winning team-mate Jacques Villeneuve by scoring 17 points over the season to Villeneuve’s six.
A season later in 2004, he was the most experienced driver in his team for the first time. He managed his first Formula 1 podium finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix and racked up another nine by the time the season was over.
His points scoring record was also impressive – he only failed to score three times over the 18-race season and finished third in Drivers’ World Championship behind the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.
The first half of the following year, 2005, proved tougher but once he got to the mid-season French Grand Prix he couldn’t stop scoring and finished with a huge points advantage over team-mate Takuma Sato. He scored two more podium finishes en route to sixth in the Drivers’ Championship.
Jenson’s breakthrough year was 2006. He drove brilliantly at the first-ever wet Hungarian Grand Prix and took his maiden win after starting down in 14thplace. “What a day - it's been amazing,” he said. “Coming through from 14th to win the race was brilliant. I couldn't have done it [taken his first win] a better way.”
The 2007 and 2008 seasons were trying for Jenson and he didn’t know whether he’ be racing in 2009 due to Honda pulling out of Formula 1. The team was saved at the last minute by Ross Brawn, who renamed it Brawn GP and agreed to run it weeks before the season’s opening.
It was immediately obvious that Jenson finally had a car in which he could really show what he could do – he won six of the first seven races of the 2009 season and then followed up his wins with consistent points-scoring finishes to become World Drivers’ Champion.
He arrived at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes as reigning world champion in 2010 and his tenure with us began excellently when he won the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.
This year he won the Canadian Grand Prix in spectacular fashion – he had to contend with a sodden Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, six safety car periods and having to fight his way through the field three times to take what was one of the best-ever Formula 1 victories.
As of today, Jenson has started 199 grands prix, scored 35 podiums, set four fastest race laps, started on pole position seven times, won ten races and scored 650 points. He’s also raced over 51,000km in a Formula 1 car and we hope he’ll race many thousands more. Good luck Jenson!