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Jenson Button’s Example Is One Lewis Hamilton Might Do Well To Observe

All smiles: But could Button teach Lewis a thing or two?

All smiles: But could Button teach Lewis a thing or two?


In life do we make our own, or is it bestowed upon us at moments when we cannot predict its presence?

The question is probably one best expounded upon by the philosophers and theorists of this world, but it might be one that Jenson Button has pondered in recent weeks.

For so long the Englishman has found himself struggling at the back of Formula One’s grid. Yet this season, his tenth in the paddock, the 29-year-old finds himself comfortably atop the driver’s championship — thanks to the breathtaking pace of his Brawn GP car.

This turn of events is rendered ever more surprising by the circumstances that surrounded the team’s preparation for the 2009 season. Last season competing as Honda, the Japanese car manafacturer’s woes in the credit crunch forced it to end its involvement with one of the world’s most expensive sports.

Honda took the decision so late, however (December), that there was little time to make other plans. With no prospect of a buyer for the beleaguered team, and all other teams having long since appointed their drivers, it looked like Button — and teammate Rubens Barrichello — would have no car to race in 2009.

Throughout his career, however, Button has been no stranger to off-season disruption. In 2004, Button announced he would be leaving his current team, British American Racing (BAR), for the team he started his career with, Williams, despite still having a year left on his contract.

Button believed that he had a better chance of success with Williams BMW, and attempted to exploit a loophole in his contract to engineer the move. Unfortunately, an FIA panel disagreed, and ruled that he would have to stay with BAR for the 2005 season.

Disappointed, Button complied with the FIA’s decision, but agreed a deal with Williams to sign with them in 2006 instead. Yet, as the switch grew nearer, Button became worried that the quality of the Williams car had become heavily impaired by BMW’s decision not to supply their engines in future years. In an ironic reverse of the 2005 situation, Button now felt that his best chance of success was served by remaining with BAR.

Williams understandably demanded Button honoured their agreed, but Button stood firm. Showing the depth of his resolve to stay with BAR, Button eventually compensated Williams with $30m of his own money so he could renege on their contract.

Both disputes brought Button a lot of bad press. Add to this the highly-publicised “party boy” image that dogged his early career, and the criticism became frequent and damaging. Button was made to look selfish, disrespectful, and ungrateful.

Worst of all, his actions didn’t even bring him success. He floundered around in poor car after poor car at the back of the grid, and notched his only F1 win in late 2006 — his 113th start in F1.

So when Honda (who bought the BAR team in 2006) ended their interest in F1 last winter, it was not as if Button suddenly found himself in an unfamiliar situation. This time, however, he could do little to help himself. It was a matter of waiting for others to see how the dice would fall.

Fortunately — perhaps luckily — for Button, Ross Brawn rode in and rescued the team. Not only did this guarantee Button a drive in 2009, it guaranteed him a good one. Brawn has long been considered one of the brightest engineers in F1, and his thorough analysis of the new F1 rules enabled him to develop a car the superior of any other on the grid.

Having spent much of his career being proactive in the search of success — to no avail — the inertia of Button’s situation and the inactivity it prescribed ended up leaving the Englishman as the man to beat in the World Championship — the very situation he had always been striving for.

Ironic? Almost certainly.

Lucky? Button might debate that, but what is certain is that he will not be taking his suddenly exalted position for granted.

One man who seems exceedingly reluctant to show gratitude for his blessings — particularly at the moment — is Button’s compatriot on the grid, Lewis Hamilton. Pilloried in the media after the scandal surrounding the Australian grand prix (where Hamilton was complicit in lying to an FIA inquiry in an attempt to gain extra world championship points), the 23-year-old has cut a disaffected figure for much of the season so far.

Accustomed to the front of the grid throughout his fledgling F1 career, the Stevenage-born driver suddenly finds himself in a McLaren car that struggles to reach the top 10 on the grid.

Hamilton hasn’t taken this very well.

He refused to speak to the press ahead of practice for the Chinese grand prix, and only gave glib answers when coerced into talking to the media the next day. He refuses to commit his future to McLaren (last season he suggested he wanted to spend his whole career with the English team) and seems to blame those in charge for all his ills — many of which he should be taking his share of the blame for.

But it is not like Hamilton does not have something of a track record for such behaviour.

In 2007, his debut season, he exacerbated a dispute with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso in a high-stakes battle that eventually forced the Spaniard out, alienated most of his peers in 2008 through his perceived “arrogance” while racing, and this year announced he was “not disappointed” that Ron Dennis — McLaren’s boss and the mentor who gave Hamilton his chance —had left the sport.

In short, he has acted with an apparent lack of class on more than one occasion.

His brazen admission that he would be willing to leave McLaren if performances did not improved indicates a lack of regard for the success achievement to date in his career.

Fortunately Hamilton is only young, and there is plenty of time for him to change his ways. In this, perhaps he could look to Button for advice.

Button made many errors as he found his feet in the sport, but eventually learned from them and finally, after years of hard graft and penance, is in a position to fulfil the potential people have long known he had.

If he goes on to win the 2009 world championship (probably not something he has yet allowed himself to dwell on), he would end up inheriting Hamilton’s crown — demonstrating the difference in paths their respective careers have taken so far.

 Yet unlike Lewis, if Button were to win the title he would probably do it with a great deal of humility, and consequently both the support of his peers and the adulation of fans worldwide.


That would have nothing to do with luck.

May 3, 2009 - Posted by | Formula 1, Sport | , , ,


  1. Nice article. Hamilton suffers lack of thinking, but he is more talented driver than Button.
    Please feel invited to my small poll:

    Comment by sportologist | May 6, 2009 | Reply

  2. Jenson Button is one lucky dude. Not only a good driver but he’s dating the hot Japanese lingerie model Jessica Michibata. She’s so hawt! Nice exotic looks.

    Comment by jorge | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  3. Very good article!

    Comment by Evenstar | May 15, 2009 | Reply

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