Jenson Button has come a long way in F1 since his debut with Williams back at the turn of Millennium. So much promise quickly turned into criticism and years of racing unreliable and un-competitive cars left many in the F1 community fearing that Button would never fulfill the promise he showed in his early years. Fast forward (or slow forward) to the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, a classic race which I’m sure will live in the memories of many an F1 fan, where Jenson scored his debut F1 victory in the changeable conditions he has become somewhat a specialist in, a stellar end to 2006 left many hoping there would only be better things to come.
In the immediate future however, it looked like the then Honda Racing team would never drive Button to another F1 victory. Two years plagued by a horrendously un-competitive car, which on occasion saw Honda out-raced by their “B-Team”, the ever likable F1 minnows, Super Aguri led to Honda’s withdrawal at the end of 2008.
It is at this point that Button’s career could well have gone up in smoke, if not for the genius of Ross Brawn who stepped in to the save the team, and well….the rest they say, is history. Since the 2009 Australian Grand Prix, Button has never looked back, and as he enters the twilight of his F1 career, it’s well worth remembering how now one of F1’s most experienced, well liked, and talented drivers came such a long way, from the longest and most humble beginnings.
In a year when McLaren Honda have been excruciating slow, whilst putting on a superb united front and a smiling face after every retirement and Q1 exit, you get the sense that Button may just have reached the end of the road with McLaren, a team for which he gave so much too, only to be treated so terribly in return at the end of 2014. The fact that McLaren made one of their most loyal and experienced drivers wait until the end of 2014 before announcing a decision to retain him over Magnussen ( who scored 55 points to Button’s 126), and did it in such a public manner can only be described as PR disaster from the Woking squad. Now, don’t get me wrong, Magnussen is an incredibly talented driver and of course, he would be a worthwhile asset to any team on the F1 grid but in comparison to Button……? No competition. Button has again this year proved himself more than a match for his illustrious teammate Alonso, despite being forced to take a huge pay cut and have his future discussed out in the public by the PR disaster that is McLaren Mercedes/Honda.
Now, as McLaren begin making noises that they wish to retain Button for another season, thehairpincorner assess whether Button should take the decision into his own hands, and leave the sinking ship he has given so much to in his fantastic F1 career.
*Disclaimer* By no means are we not fans of McLaren here thehairpincorner, however we do hold a certain strong distaste for the way Button was treated regarding his contract situation last year, and the endless empty promises which come out of the McLaren technology centre in Woking.
Reasons Button should stay
He’s still a class act, as he has shown this season.
2015 has been in no way the Fernando Alonso whitewash that many predicted. Jenson has been more than a match for Alonso, and due to the chronic reliability problems of the Honda engine, we’ve been deprived of a much awaited scrap between the two veterans. We nearly got it in Monza, until again, Alonso was forced into retirement, but in the the very few races/qualifying sessions they haven’t had problems, Button and Alonso have been very evenly matched.
The team and Alonso want him for 2016
Very recently, noises from the McLaren camp have been in extremely stark contrast to this time last year. Boullier has come out and publicly said “Fernando is a yes and we do intend to keep Jenson. We have a deadline if we want to activate options. There are discussions ongoing and we will see.” This is as clear an indication as any that McLaren will be pushing for an extension to Button’s contact. Jenson also appears to have a good relationship with teammate Alonso, something which was lacking in droves last time the Spaniard raced for the Woking squad. Alonso told ESPN “Jenson has been quite good all season,” said Alonso. “We’ve been working together very closely to help the team. The experience Jenson has, it been very, very important for the upgrades we have brought to the car, in terms of the power unit and aerodynamics.
“So if Jenson stays I think it’s a good thing for the team. If they decide they need to change something there will be some advantages and some disadvantages for the team, I guess. The only thing I can say, the only thing I know for sure is working with Jenson has been very, very productive for the team and for myself, learning a lot of things.”
His experience could prove critical for McLaren
Having two experienced champions in the car whilst developing and testing their new engine will no doubt be an asset to McLaren. The feedback both Button and Alonso can provide would be far greater in depth that feedback say, one experienced driver and one rookie (no offence intended to any rookie F1 driver, they’re all still extremely talented) could offer. This can only help in McLaren’s quest to return to the front of the F1 field, which will become all the more critical if the team have an un-competitive start to 2016.
Reasons Button may want to go
He’ll have no shortage of options
Although it’s hard to image Button wishing to move to another team in 2016, especially now Williams have confirmed their 2016 lineup, and the Hass Project could end up very similar to McLaren’s 2015 season, Button would have plenty of options to continue racing into 2016. Indeed, Mark Webber has recently stated that he’d like to see Button racing in the WEC where he currently drives with Porsche. With over 250 F1 starts under his belt, Button may be open to a new challenge and the opportunity to drive the fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans.
He sounds worn out and was treated terribly by McLaren last year
In some interviews this season, although putting up a commendable united front, Button’s weariness and frustration at the current state of play at Honda has shown through. With Button publicly expressing his desire to stay on at Woking last season, a “We’ll see” response this year is as clear a sign as any that his patience is wearing thin. Coupled with the awful way in which McLaren treated him towards the tail end of last season, Button may feel that the time is right to walk away with his head held high.
Nothing left to prove
The 2009 World Champion has very little left to prove in Formula One. With 15 wins, 50 podiums and 1204 points in a 15 year career Jenson has achieved more than most drivers dream of, and with a McLaren F1 champion in 2016 very unlikely, Jenson could walk away from F1 in the best possible light. He will no doubt be remembered by all and voluntary retirement is a sure fire way that Button will leave F1 from the very top.
So there we have it, they’re our reasons for and against Button deciding to stay on at McLaren Honda for another season. Whatever Jenson decides to do, he will be remembered in F1 for exactly what he was, an incredibly talented driver who lived up to his incredible potential and did what every racing driver dreams of doing, winning the Formula 1 World Championship.
We’d love hear what you think Button should do! Let us know in the comments below or on twitter @hairpin_corner.
Image from www.autosport.com