On Sunday, Jenson Button will make his 200th Grand Prix Start. The Frome Flyer has had some very memorable races in his eleven years in the sport, but which was his best out of his 199 to date? Today to put their cases forward for their favourites, I’m delighted to welcome @Miss_F1 and returning for his second appearance on Marshall GP’s weekly debate @SebbyHaughtonf1. Please vote in the poll at the end of the debate. If your favourite isn’t there, please add it in the comment box below.
First up is @Miss_F1 – Hungary 2006
Jenson Button will this weekend, compete in his 200th grand prix. To date, Jenson has won ten races during his F1 career. But his first win was in 2006, at a wet Hungaroring, in a Honda no less.
The weekend started badly after a 10-place grid penalty for an engine change which left him in 14th. Myself, and I’m sure many others would agree, there looked to be little hope for the Brit to grace the top spot on the podium. How wrong we were…
The track was inundated with heavy rain allowing Button to quite easily pass many of his competitors in the early stages of the race on the Michelin tyre. By lap 10, Button was already in fourth. Button struck gold when front runners Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso retired from the race.
Raikkonen crashed into the back of Liuzzi’s Toro Rosso leading to the safety car to enter the track. Alonso’s substantial lead at the front, was obliterated. This paved the way for Button to take advantage and keep up with the Renault. Both drivers needed to pit for a second time but it was Button who came in first but only to re-fuel, whilst Alonso created a gap on a drying track. However, once Alonso pitted, his exit from the pits lost him the race after a wheelnut was insecurely fastened gifting the lead, and ultimately the win, to Button. For his final pit stop, Button finally changed to dry tyres and was able to cruise to the end.
With a combination of luck, correct tactics and talent, the underrated master of the rain went on to win the race with a lead of over half a minute. He was then followed by podium newbies, Pedro de la Rosa in 2nd and Nick Heidfeld in 3rd.
Next up is @SebbyHaughtonf1 – Canada 2011
This weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix will be Jenson Button’s 200th Grand Prix. A career full with great drives in half-a-dozen different cars. However the drive that sticks out for me is the Canadian Grand Prix in 2011, driving for McLaren-Mercedes.
Where do we start? He started 7th & didn’t have a good start and ended up duelling with his team-mate (Lewis Hamilton), who went for a gap that wasn’t there, and ended up crashing out, with Button surviving the collision but having to go into the pits. He made up places before a driver through penalty for speeding behind the safety car dropped him down again. He made up ground on the intermediate tyres after his 3rd trip through the pits, including passing both Renaults.
But when the race was stopped, Button was down in 12th. The race started again & he was in the pits again for intermediates again (because you have to be on full wets on a wet-safety car start). Jenson was early to do this, and gained places & was challenging 8th placed Fernando Alonso when the Spaniard came out of the pits; going into turn 3, Alonso went to close the door but Button was already there & they touched; Alonso was bumped out of the race causing another safety car & Button with a puncture was down in last (21st).
The fight back was now on. He passed cars like there was no tomorrow, like he was fighting for a title, passing Adrian Sutil & Pastor Maldonado in one corner, before going into the pits a lap earlier for slicks to get the under-cut. It worked & he knew where the grip was; he was passing the Renaults, Massa & Kobayashi & was 4th before another safety car backed the top 4 up. There were now just 5 laps left; he took advantage of Mark Webber missing the final chicane before using DRS to pass Michael Schumacher & then catching Sebastian Vettel. On the last lap, he pushed Vettel into a mistake & took the lead! He went on to win the Grand Prix.
No race of Jenson’s can beat that, surely?
And finally @MarshallGP – Brazil 2009
For me, Jenson’s greatest race wasn’t one that he won. It was the race that clinched him the world championship, Brazil 2009.
Jenson’s qualifying was compromised by a wrong tyre choice in Q2 which saw the champion elect start from a lowly 14th. To add to the pressure, his team-mate and closest championship rival was on pole position in front of his home support.
Button made a good start, managing to avoid several first lap collisions ahead of him and was running in 9th by the end of the first lap. Jenson started to pick his way through the traffic pulling off a great move on Grosjean around the outside of turn 6 before taking Nakajima into T1. Next up was the impressive debutant Kobayashi who frustrated Button for several laps. After eventually clearing him again into T1, Button started to gain good ground on his one stop strategy, leapfrogging several two stop runners in the process.
Coming into the closing stages of the race Button passed Kovalainen when he made his final stop and one more lunge into T1 on the Torro Rosso of Buemi had elevated him into 5th. With title rival Barrichello unable to capitalise on his pole position (eventually finishing 8th after a puncture), the pressure was off for the final laps and Jenson duly crossed the line in fifth position to become world champion.
I can’t remember who said it but this summed it up for me “A drive worthy of a world championship!” After being on the back foot for most of the second half of the year and with the pressure reaching boiling point. To produce a drive like that, throwing caution to the wind to claim the ultimate prize is why I regard this as his finest race.