JB300: Races 1 to 100
As Jenson Button approaches his 300th grand prix start this weekend at the Malaysian GP, we take a look back at his racing career and focus in on a few of his stand-out races. First up, take a whistlestop tour from race one to one hundred.
Here was the boy-next-door teenager who burst onto the Formula 1 stage in a blur of instant fame. With the good looks, cheeky swagger and fearsome pace, rookie Jenson Button was an immediate hit with the racing public.
Ever since the youngster first got his hands on a kart, his father John had worked tirelessly to help him reach the pinnacle of the sport. He scooped the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award, got his first taste of F1 machinery and knew there was no turning back: Formula 1 would be his life.
Clinching a winner-takes-all shoot-out for the Williams race seat, he impressed seasoned observers in his debut year; sixth in his second race, third on the grid at the daunting Spa-Francorchamps. Despite Frank Williams remarking that JB had a “great future” the Frome flyer had to find alternative employment for his second year.
The apprenticeship continued at Enstone and after two years racing a recalcitrant Benetton / Renault – where he came oh-so-close to his first podium (before he was robbed by suspension failure) – he continued to display a never-give-up spirit.
That raw speed and relentless commitment impressed team boss David Richards and a new relationship blossomed bringing with it the inevitable highs and lows of racing. The pace of the 2004 BAR-Honda ignited a championship charge and podium followed podium. Running second to Michael Schumacher in the championship chase, suddenly Jenson Button was a Formula 1 force to be reckoned with.
There was more success in early 2005 before the authorities caught up with Honda’s trickery and the whole team were forced to sit out the most prestigious race of them all, Monaco. That was a low point, but, unbeknown to Jenson or the team, a great high lay just around the corner…
Races 1 - 100: the stats
|Starts||100 > Australia 2000 to China 2005|
Three of the best
Remember the mud? The traffic chaos and the cold April showers? That was the 2000 British GP – an event that could have been miserable, apart from a chink of joy. The bedraggled British fans had something to cheer about: a new hero. In only Jenson’s fourth grand prix he collected points for a hard-fought fifth place.
Tilke’s Sepang has always suited JB’s style. The year before he nearly nabbed a podium, but in 2004, he collected his first Formula 1 trophy. He overtook Toyota’s Jarno Trulli as it started spitting with rain and hauled his BAR through the field on a superior fuel stop strategy.
Everything that could go wrong, did at Hockenheim 2004, but Jenson raced with aplomb. Hit with a ten-place grid penalty for an engine change in practice, his overtaking charge to second place started from 13th on the grid. Then in the closing stages, his helmet straps came loose making it difficult for him to breath and he drove one-handed while holding his helmet in place.