Now in his 16th season, Jenson Button is wondering rather what’s next for him in life, rather than wondering which seat he’ll occupy on the 2016 grid in Formula 1.
Button is the most experienced driver on the grid, with an impressive 278 Grand Prix starts and at the age of 35, one feels that the once innocent, baby faced lad from Somerset who burst onto the F1 scene at the turn of the millennium is getting fed up. And how many times have we heard the phrase ‘but erm’ in 15 years?
However, one has to feel that F1 will be a poorer place with out him. He may have become known for using many excuses over the years, but his character in the paddock is rare, a truly smiling face. One thing is for certain, he will be sorely missed if he does indeed announce his retirement prior to the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.
Unfortunately for him, the timing of his sole World Championship win in 2009 almost seemed to come at the wrong time. Faced with Brawn being bought by Mercedes, he had few options on the grid, except to move to McLaren. And it looked like a good move, in Lewis Hamilton he had a teammate who’d being willing and able to push him to the limit, test his mettle and see if he really was a true World Champion. Also, McLaren were still in good from, apart from a blip in the first half of the 2009 season. But after 5 years, several poor, slow cars and now back-marker mediocrity, he’s run out of patience.
Indeed, Fernando Alonso, another experienced World Champion is getting fed up with McLaren’s poor transition into a new era for McLaren Honda, Ron Dennis trying hard to rekindle the glory days of the late 1980’s. However, he’s falling even harder.
And so, Button looks to a new career in sportscar racing, following the path of another former disenchanted F1 driver in Mark Webber, who packed his bags in 2013 to drive for Porsche in the growing World Endurance Championship. Button is also tipped to join Porsche, which would be a sensible move. He’d go somewhere where he would be valued and appreciated. A long shot from being Dennis’ punching bag, the man he never wants, the man he publicly embarrassed by telling him to ‘try harder’ in 2014.
And that baffles the mind. He’s still just as quick in a faltering V6 Honda powered McLaren as he was back in 2000 with a BMW V10 propelled Williams. He gives Alonso a run for his money, the head to head record this season testifies to that, on the contrary to what the critics say.
The only light in a dreadful season for Button, is that he can walk away from his contract because he hasn’t been given a competitive car. As can Alonso.
So long, Ron.
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