Jenson Alexander Lyons Button (born 19 January 1980) is a British Formula One racing driver from England. He currently drives for the Brawn GP team. He won his first Grand Prix in Hungary, on 6 August 2006 after 113 races. His next win did not come until 2009, when he won the first two races of the 2009 season.
Jenson Button was born in Frome, Somerset, and went to Selwood Middle School and then Frome community college. He is the son of Simone Lyons and former Rallycross ace John Button from London (during the 1970s well-known in the UK for his so-called Colorado beetle Volkswagen, whose best overall results was to become the runner-up in both the Embassy/RAC-MSA British Rallycross and TEAC/Lydden Rallycross championships of the year 1976) and named after the car marque Jensen. Jenson Button’s parents are divorced, and he has three older sisters, Tania Katrina (born 1967), Samantha Chantal (born 1970) and Natasha Michelle (born 1973) Button.
Button began karting at age eight after his father bought him his first kart, and he made an extraordinarily successful start. He won all 34 races of the 1991 British Cadet Kart Championship along with the title.
Further successes followed, including three triumphs in the British Open Kart Championship. In 1997 he became the youngest driver ever to win the European Super A Championship and won the Ayrton Senna Memorial Cup as well, precipitating a move into car racing.
Aged 18, he contested the British Formula Ford Championship with Haywood Racing and won the title with nine race wins. He also triumphed in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, ahead of future Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon.
At the end of 1998 he won the annual McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award. His prize included a test in a McLaren Formula One car, which he received at the end of the following year.
Button entered Formula Three in 1999 with the Promatecme team. He won three times – at Thruxton, Pembrey and Silverstone – and finished the season as top rookie driver.
He was third overall in the championship, behind Marc Hynes and Luciano Burti, and finished fifth and second respectively in the Marlboro Masters and Macau Grand Prix (0.035s behind winner Darren Manning in the latter).
At the end of 1999 Button had his McLaren test prize at Silverstone, and also tested for the Prost team. A vacant race seat became available at the Williams team following the departure of Alessandro Zanardi, and team boss Frank Williams arranged a ‘shoot-out’ between Button and Formula 3000 racer Bruno Junqueira. Button won the seat
He finished eighth in the 2000 Drivers’ Championship. At the Spa Francorchamps circuit, he qualified 3rd and finished 4th. However, he made a number of rookie mistakes during the season, including crashing while under safety car conditions at Monza. He was outscored by his more experienced teammate, Ralf Schumacher.
Button drove for Benetton in the 2001 seasonIn 2001, although still under contract with Williams, Button drove for Benetton which had just been purchased by Renault. He had a dismal season; the car, which was constantly under development that year, was never fast, nor was Button. He did, however, place fifth at the German Grand Prix, but finished a disappointing seventeenth in the drivers’ championship.
In 2002 Renault renamed Benetton as Renault F1. Though his teammate Jarno Trulli routinely outpaced him in qualifying, Button occasionally had the superior race pace. He narrowly missed third place (and his first podium) at the Malaysian Grand Prix, being passed by Michael Schumacher in the last lap due to a suspension failure in his Renault, and ultimately finished the race in fourth. The Brazilian Grand Prix gave him another fourth place, and he finished seventh in that year’s drivers championship.
For the 2003 season Renault team principal Flavio Briatore replaced Button with Fernando Alonso, previously test driver for the team. Despite a “huge outcry” Briatore stated “Time will tell if I am wrong.” In 2005 Alonso won the Drivers’ Championship with Renault, while Button had yet to win a race and was involved in his second contract dispute in two years. The Times quoted Briatore as saying “Jenson is a fine driver but there were too many contracts, too many things in the background.”
After his replacement at Renault, in early 2003 Button joined the BAR team, alongside former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. As the season progressed, Button gained the upper hand in qualifying and also enjoyed better luck in races. Button’s best result of the season was fourth place in Austria. However, he crashed heavily during Saturday practice in Monaco, causing him to miss both the race and the following testing session at Monza. By the end of the season, though, things were looking up, and at the 2003 United States Grand Prix Button led a lap for the first time. He finished ninth in the Drivers’ Championship that year with 17 points.
Button behind the wheel for British American Racing at the 2004 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.In 2004, Button and BAR-Honda made significant progress and BAR finished the season second in the Constructors’ Championship. Button scored his first ever podium finish with a third place in the Malaysian Grand Prix, and added 9 more throughout that season.
Button and BAR’s first pole position came in April at the 2004 San Marino Grand Prix, in which he finished second. He ended the season third overall, behind the two dominant Ferrari drivers, with 85 points.
Despite his success with BAR, on 5 August 2004 Button revealed he had signed for Williams for the next two years, sparking a controversial contract dispute. An apparent loophole in his BAR contract permitted him to leave if Honda’s commitment to the team was in any doubt.
BAR boss David Richards fought to keep his driver, though Frank Williams maintained that the switch was entirely legal. The FIA Contract Recognition Board (CRB) held a hearing on 16 October in Milan, Italy, to determine Button’s 2005 status, concluding that he was contracted to BAR-Honda for the 2005 season.
Button at the 2005 Canadian Grand Prix, where he took pole position.A poor start to the 2005 Formula One season included disqualification at the San Marino Grand Prix. Scrutineers found that the fuel system of the car ‘hid’ fuel, allowing the car to finish above minimum weight despite potentially being able to run lighter during the race. The adjudged contravention of the rules resulted in a two-race ban for the team, allowing him to make his television commentary debut, for ITV Sport in Monaco.
Button took the second pole position of his career at Montreal. However he started the race poorly, and crashed on lap 46 while in third place. Despite having to wait until the halfway point of the season to score his first World Championship point, things improved considerably towards the end of the year. After a fourth place finish at the 2005 French Grand Prix, Button placed himself second on the grid for his home grand prix at Silverstone. Unfortunately, another slow start saw him lose position, and poor race pace dropped him through the field to finish fifth.
Button has always gone well at the Hockenheim circuit, and 2005 was no exception. He qualified his BAR-Honda in second place for the 2005 German Grand Prix, and then went on to finish third, his first podium finish of the season.
In 2005 Button again found himself the subject of contractual controversy. Despite having signed a contract to drive for the Williams team for 2006 he judged the likely prospects for that team to have declined, as their engine suppliers BMW had purchased the Sauber team and were to stop supplying engines to Williams. Frank Williams was adamant that the contract must be honoured despite Button claiming that circumstances had changed and he had a right to remain at BAR.
On 21 September 2005, BAR confirmed that Button would once again drive for them in 2006 (having bought out his contract from Williams for a reported $30m), where he would partner ex-Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello.
At the start of the 2006 Formula One season, BAR Honda were fully purchased by Honda and became a full works team, changing its name to the Honda Racing F1 Team.
Button celebrating his first win on the podium at Hungary, alongside drivers Pedro de la Rosa (left) and Nick Heidfeld (right)The 2006 season had both highs and lows – Button had a dismal race at home but took his first ever Grand Prix win in Hungary.
At the first round he scored five points with 4th place and finished on the podium in Malaysia. But in Australia his engine blew while running third, having started from pole position. He purposefully stopped short of the finish line to avoid an engine penalty.
The early part of the season proved difficult. At Monaco he qualified 14th and finished 11th. At his home race at Silverstone he qualified 19th after he lost time being weighed and his team failed to get him on track quickly enough. He spun off on lap eight due to an engine failure.
Button out-qualified his teammate Rubens Barrichello at the 2006 Canadian Grand PrixAt the 2006 Canadian Grand Prix, Button managed to out-qualify his teammate for the first time since Imola. However, after battling with David Coulthard in 8th, Button got passed by him and lost his chance for a point. Another retirement occurred at the 2006 United States Grand Prix when Button was one of several drivers eliminated in a first lap collision.
At the French Grand Prix, Button retired once more due to an engine failure. Qualifying for the German Grand Prix, however, brought a ray of sunshine into the bleak performance of qualifying this season. After a slightly shaky Q1, where he, once again, got pulled into the weighbridge – Button managed to get onto the second row of the grid with P4. After running for a while during the race in a strong P3, Button eventually finished back in P4.
Button took the first win of his career in 2006 at a chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix – the 113th Grand Prix start of his career. In doing so he overcame a 10-grid slot penalty for changing his engine (the second driver after Räikkönen to win a race despite this penalty), which meant he started 14th. The race was badly affected by heavy rain. Button passed a number of drivers in the early laps – including championship contender Michael Schumacher – and was up to fourth by lap 10. Following the retirement of leading drivers Kimi Räikkönen (accident) and Fernando Alonso (driveshaft failure) he went on to win the race by over 40 seconds from Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld. Alonso was behind Button on the racetrack when he retired, although Button still had one pitstop to make. Button’s win beats Nigel Mansell’s 1989 win from 12th on the grid at the Hungaroring. Button was the first British driver to win since David Coulthard in March 2003 and the first English F1 driver to win since Johnny Herbert won the European Grand Prix in 1999. His victory came 13 years after Damon Hill won his first F1 race at the same circuit. At the British Academy Television Awards 2007 Button’s first win at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix earned ITV1 a BAFTA under the category of ‘Best Sport’.
The Turkish Grand Prix held many expectations due to the previous race, and Button ended a strong 4th. The next three races, in Italy, China, and Japan all gave Button strong points positions with 4ths and 5ths. Over the last six races of the season, Button scored more points (35) than any other driver.
Button driving for Honda at the 2007 British Grand Prix.In 2007, Button again competed with the Honda Racing F1 team alongside Rubens Barrichello. He was unable to take part in winter testing, prior to the 2007 season because of two hairline fractures to his ribs, sustained in a karting incident in late 2006. Former British world champion Damon Hill aired doubts over Button’s hopes to be a championship contender at Honda over the coming season, saying, “if he is serious… he has to get himself in a car that is a championship contender.”Alan Henry writing in The Guardian 2007 F1 season guide, predicted: “Button will win a couple more races but is not a title contender.”He was proved to be wrong as the Honda car proved to be aerodynamically poor.
At the first race of the season in Australia, Button only managed to qualify 14th after handling problems. The race was no better as he endured considerable understeer throughout, was given a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane and finished 15th. The next two races in Malaysia and Bahrain were just as unsuccessful, Button finishing 12th behind team-mate Rubens Barrichello in Malaysia, and not even completing a lap in Bahrain after colliding with Red Bull Racing driver David Coulthard at the first corner. At the French Grand Prix Button finished eighth, earning his and Honda’s first point of 2007.
Following the British Grand Prix, it was announced that Button would remain with Honda for 2008.
As Button’s place as the pre-eminent British driver in F1 was taken by Lewis Hamilton, former champion Nigel Mansell criticised Button, saying: “Jenson should have won more races, he has under-performed and that is down to him. He had the opportunity and he didn’t take it – there won’t be any more.” Honda team boss Nick Fry defended his driver saying: “I would refute everything Nigel has said, and particularly I think his comments about Jenson’s reputation for partying are about five years out of date. People forget that Jenson made his F1 debut at the age of 20 – but he’s now 27. I’ve worked with him now for five years, and his increasing maturing and the way he changed his lifestyle is extremely noticeable.”
Button driving for Honda at the 2008 Chinese Grand Prix.Button made no secret of his frustration regarding his current situation. He described his 2007 season as “a total disaster”, adding “I’m not going to hang around finishing 14th”. He also described his car as “a complete dog”. Button did, however, record several impressive outings towards the end of the season, especially when rain was prominent.
Jenson Button stayed with Honda for 2008 and continued to be partnered by Rubens Barrichello. He retired at the Australian Grand Prix on the first lap, and finished 10th at Malaysia. In Bahrain he retired after running over David Coulthard’s wing. He scored his first and only points at the Spanish Grand Prix with 6th place. He then had three 11th place finishes in a row at Turkey, Monaco, and Canada. He was the only driver to retire at the French Grand Prix, and failed to finish the British Grand Prix as well.
On 5 December 2008 Honda announced that they were quitting F1, due to the global economic crisis. This left Button’s chances of a drive in 2009 dependent on the team finding a buyer.
2009: Brawn GP
Button leading the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix.On 5 March 2009, it was announced that the former Honda team would become Brawn GP, following a buy-out by Ross Brawn, the Team Principal of Honda Racing. Button and Barrichello were confirmed as the team’s drivers for the 2009 season.Button took pole position in the 2009 Australian Grand Prix, his first race for the team, with Barrichello in second place, and led the race from start to finish to win the race ahead of his team-mate—the first time a team scored a 1-2 finish on their debut since 1954. One week later, he made it two poles and two wins in a row at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The race was stopped due to heavy rain with less than 75% completed, and half points were awarded.In this race Button scored his first hat trick (pole, win and fastest lap). At the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix Button finished third behind Sebastian Vettel And Mark Webber.