F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer takes a look at some early video of Jenson Button in karts and F3 – and his debut in Formula 1.
It may be June rather than July, but it’s still Silverstone, and it’s the British Grand Prix! And everyone’s attention will be on one man: Jenson Button.
With a strong lead in the championship this could be Button’s year – so let’s retrace his roots and how he got here.
1991: Jenson started, like most other F1 drivers, in karts. And he had quite the start: 34 victories out of 34 races to win the 1991 British Cadet Kart Championship.
Such success got him noticed early on, and here’s a short clip of what was probably local news coverage of the young Button.
1999: After a great 1998, which culminated in Button taking the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award, he was ready to take the next step: F3. He didn’t win the championship, but was top rookie driver with three wins. This was the first of those three wins – at Thruxton.
If you’re not familiar with the lower formulae, this may give you a good idea of what it’s about. Watch out for the bonus interview near the end.
2000: Button’s arrival in F1 was greeted with much fanfare. Getting a top seat right away at Williams-BMW, many expected him to do well.
Indeed, he did pretty well, finishing eighth overall with 12 points. One of his more memorable battles that year was with Jos Verstappen’s Arrows in Brazil. The battle is covered across different parts of the video, with the pass at 14:55.
But he was also prone to rookie errors, such as this rather bizarre one at Monza behind the safety car. The eventual arrival of Juan Pablo Montoya meant Button had to leave Williams for 2001.
2001: It was the Benetton-Renault team that Jenson moved to for his second season. But Benetton was a team in transition to Renault, and Button had a horrible season, only scoring once with a fifth in Germany. For Button, it was a year to forget.
2002: Button fared much better this year with the now-rebadged Renault team. He was seventh in the championship, best of the rest behind the Ferraris, Williamses, and McLarens. He also had some close calls for a podium finish – but could do no better than fourth on either occasion.
He could’ve finished second in Malaysia, but couldn’t hold off Montoya after some splendid defending here. But even third wasn’t meant to be for Button after being forced to slow on the last lap with a mchanical problem – dropping to fourth behind Michael Schumacher.
Despite all his Renault heroics, Flavio Briatore pushed him out of the team, anyway. He needed to make room for a certain Fernando Alonso…
2003: Jenson soon found a new home at BAR under David Richards. Year one with the Brackley franchise saw some pretty bad lows – an early mix-up with teammate Jacques Villeneuve in the pits in Australia, then this huge crash at Monaco.
But there were also some spectacular – yet brief – highlights. Most notably, he led a race for the first time at Indianapolis. But like Malaysia 2002 and 2003, he couldn’t hold off Michael Schumacher. His engine couldn’t hold on, either, and blew itself to bits before Button could get that elusive podium finish.
The first half of his season showed potential, but lacked results – but the ride was just about to get bumpier. Part two tomorrow will cover Jenson’s best and worst moments, both on and off the track.