Just before this article begins, I would like to explain how much I will also miss Felipe Massa, as I am also a huge fan of his. However, Jenson is somewhat more relatable and closer to home for me, most probably, simply because he's English, which is why I have followed his career more intensely and this tribute is to him. I sometimes remark on how abundant the English language is with wonderful words, I am an English A level student after all. It causes me great stress and despair when I hear these words used dismissively, losing their meanings and becoming insignificant. One of these words is “hero”. I can honestly say that the context I use that word in here is to the true meaning of the word. Jenson Button is one of my three Heroes. He, and the other 2, are people I hold in such high regard and awe, that they have inspired me and influenced my life to an unparalleled degree. I am partly devastated, and partly joyful, that Jenson is leaving the sport. Of course, the Jenson fanatic in me is heartbroken to see him leave, but deep down, I know he is doing the right thing for himself, and he is happy. Of course, he doesn’t need us to tell him that, and I for one am incredibly excited about what we will see him venture into next. Until then though, this is why I have so much respect for the great man, and why I will so dearly miss him.
Jenson is commonly referred to and clearly seen in interviews to be one of the true gentlemen of the sport, with a quintessential charm, twinkle in his eye, good sense of humour, frequent participation in charity events and an obviously intelligent and a lovable personality, which has resulted in him being unofficially voted the most popular driver in every year since 2009. Let's not forget the time he laughed off an armed ambush in Brazil and went on to win the race after a fierce battle with team mate Lewis Hamilton.
It should go without saying that Jenson is a bloody good driver, undeniably one of the best, if not the best. Like most of the true greats of the sport, JB has consistently outperformed his team mates, the list of which featuring big scalps including Jarno Trulli, Rubens Barrichello, Jacques Villeneuve and Lewis Hamilton, none of whom are slouches. Jenson has clearly had pace for all of his career, being the youngest driver in history to score a world championship point at the time of his debut season in 2000. For anyone to be picked up by Sir Frank Williams, a man who knows what he is doing more so than anyone else and has worked with the best drivers across the decades, especially a rookie, must be immensely talented. Whilst at Benetton Renault in only his second season, Jenson was compared to Ayrton Senna, commonly regarded as the sport’s greatest talent. Two years later in only his fourth season, Jenson finished third in the championship with BAR, beaten only by the legendary partnership of Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Ferrari. The next time Jenson was in a car as competitive, he grasped the opportunity with both hands and deservedly claimed the title amidst remarkable circumstances. JB is also one of the only drivers to survive through the V10, V8 and now V6 hybrid eras, and is one of only a handful to have been competitive in all three, showing his diversity, raw pace and natural understanding and feeling of cars.
At the start of 2009 when Honda pulled out of the sport, Jenson didn't have a drive and was facing potential early retirement. The genius of Ross Brawn salvaged the remnants of Honda, and despite huge budget cuts and redundancies the Brawn GP 001 was 7 tenths quicker than any other car at pre-season testing. Winning 6 of the first 7 races put everyone in their place, and Jenson proved himself a worthy champion after the drop in form late season due to lack of funding, by storming to an amazing 5th place from 14th on the grid (pre-DRS) in treacherously changeable conditions in Brazil to claim the title, in what was quite possibly the best race I've ever seen. He was also presented with the highly coveted Top Gear magazine Man of the Year award for his efforts.
Nobody really performs well in their first year at a new team. It takes time to acclimatise. Yet Jenson still managed 5th place at the end of his inaugural year with McLaren, just 1 behind team mate Lewis Hamilton in 4th after taking two victories. In 2011 JB was runner up in the title chase behind the sadly dominant Red Bull of Vettel. No one could have done any better than that, not even the extremely experienced, albeit desperately unlucky Webber in the sister Red Bull. That year Jenson was also victorious in one of the other greatest races I've ever seen. In a stop-start Canadian Grand Prix, after having a drive through penalty, a crash, a puncture, 5 pit stops and being resultantly last at one point, his ingenious tactical decisions and fantastic pace and car control in all conditions allowed Jenson to force Vettel into a mistake under pressure to take the lead on the last lap, snatching victory in appalling fickle conditions. His 2nd place in the final standings resulted in the Top Gear Man of the Year award going to him for a 2nd time.
After a win at the first race of 2012 in Australia, followed by one very near miss in Malaysia and a 2nd place in China despite qualifying behind Hamilton in both Australia and Malaysia, another dip in McLaren's form cost Jenson dearly. However he still managed wins later in Spa and Sao Paolo. Even so, when Hamilton left McLaren at the end of the year, during their period as team mates Jenson had managed to outscore Lewis. An amazing feat which no one, not even Fernando Alonso in Lewis' debut year, has achieved. Until Rosberg this year. Slightly dubious perhaps, though… Despite being so incredibly evenly matched and competitive, particularly when it came to their notorious straight fights wheel to wheel, Lewis and Jenson managed to maintain a notably pally relationship off the track, which unfortunately is becoming increasingly rare these days.
2013 was an abysmal year, as McLaren's chassis lacked considerable pace, forcing them to scrap for petty points in every race. Despite this, immense tactical knowledge still resulted in some strong points finishes for Jenson, including a genius 5th place in China.
Jenson is not only fast, but consistent, intelligent, skillful and aggressive when he needs to be. He clearly one of the smoothest driver on the grid, smoothly being the best way to drive for so many reasons. Smoothness is beneficial in terms of mechanical sympathy, tyre preservation, outright speed and car control. When he needs to be, Jenson is obviously fantastic at aggressive wheel to wheel action, as seen most recently in Brazil 2009, Canada 2011, India 2013 with the best block pass I've ever seen on Jean-Eric Vergne, overtaking approximately 5 cars in the closing stages of the Chinese GP in 2012 to take 2nd place, one of which was a wonderful dummy on Vettel, and with Alonso in Spa 2014 and Perez at Monza 2014 to name a few more recent occasions. His tactical resilience has shone through in Hungary 2006, were he earned himself his first victory, in Canada 2011 in similarly unpredictable conditions, and when he found himself leading the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2014 in the hugely inferior McLaren. As well as overtaking and pace, after defending from Alonso for an entire stint at Silverstone, a man who'd already fought his way through the field to reach Jenson and really knows how to overtake, Jenson proved he can definitely commit to the defensive work just as well. Similarly at the US GP in 2013, with a damaged car on worn tyres he had a stellar afternoon, defending his position from about 8 cars throughout the race, sometimes all at once!
Jenson seems to have everything, intelligence, skill, aggression, calm and coolness under pressure and stamina and strength because of his triathlons, enabling him to keep up his pace for the entire duration of a race distance arguably more so than anyone else in the field, even in relentless humid climates such as Singapore and Malaysia. Potentially his greatest attribute. Jenson's fly-like reactions have also saved him and several other drivers from a fair number of retirements in the past, such as with Hamilton in China 2010 to name just one situation. He can also clearly perform in any situation, being renowned for his impeccable talent in not only wet weather but also in changeable conditions, as well as strong pace in the dry as proven in Spa 2012 where he put his car on pole and led the race lights to flag, to name one example. When there are issues in the team as well, Jenson's proven his ability to pull through, such as with Brawn GP who were stricken for money and staff, and with all the contractual controversy and lack of commitment and decision from Ron Dennis' at McLaren recently, Jenson continued to perform at his best. In the past, Jenson's response to criticism has been exemplary, such as when Flavio Briatore condemned him as a "lazy playboy" and he went on to finish third in the title the following year. Personal issues haven't phased him either, scoring his first win immediately following a stale period of his relationship with Louise Griffiths, and more recently and seriously when his Dad, John Button aka 'Papa Smurf', tragically passed away shortly before this season began. Despite this and even contemplating a years break, Jenson's campaign is going extremely well especially in comparison to his team mate and considering the car he is in, demonstrating his ability to perform in lesser machinery also.
It is a huge shame for such an amazing personality and talent to disappear from the pack. Jenson deserves many more titles, I speak for thousands when I wish him the absolute best of luck in in gaining those missing championships in the future, whether it be Rally Cross, Endurance Racing or Triathlon, we will be backing him. Formula 1 won't be the same without him, he is a national treasure and one of my 3 true hero’s. I will miss him. All the best JB, have fun!