Jenson Button has been in Formula 1 racing for a long time, he made his debut in 2000 and then worked his way up through the teams, through the seasons and is now confirmed as one of the top drivers in the world.

He is far from the most flamboyant or dramatic personality on the grid. If you were to seek drama in the 2011 season you would do better to look at the temperamental Hamilton, sparks in the Red Bull team or the sullen and unfortunate Massa.

…Jenson would have been shortlisted…

If the sports personality awards were actually based on personality Jenson would have been shortlisted for most of his F1 career. He has maintained a cool, calm and cheerful exterior throughout his career while all around him are losing theirs and has become one of the most likeable drivers on the grid.

This style is reflected in his driving, he has been crowned world champion but started 169 races before doing so – coming narrowly second to Nigel Mansell’s record. He is consistently quick, smooth and consistent and so thrives in adverse or changeable conditions.

…pick up some good finishes…

2011 certainly kicked up a few of them – Vettel dominated the early races but Button was able to pick up some good finishes in his wake. He was thwarted by a red flag in Monaco, a pit-crew error at the British grand prix and hydraulic issues in Germany. He was held up by traffic in Singapore and despite communications issues in Belgium – meaning he could only qualify thirteenth – he battled up to take third.

Despite all of this, in the closing stages of the season Button was the only driver with the mathematical possibility of beating Vettel. He achieved this by a series of good points-scoring drives which kept him competitive. He didn’t seem to feel the weaknesses of the Mclaren car as keenly as his team-mate did and was able to capitalise upon its strengths when the rare opportunities presented themselves.

…some of the worst conditions…

The Canadian grand prix really tells the tale of his season. The weekend saw rule changes and some of the worst conditions under which a race has been run. Button had mechanical problems in practice and was only able to qualify seventh.

He had driven without a disaster until Hamilton tried to squeeze back past him on the pit straight, Button could not see him through the spray and the resulting collision ended Hamilton’s race and forced Button into the pits to check for damage and risk some intermediate tyres.

…forced him to pit again…

This natural penalty was then doubled by a drive-through penalty for speeding behind the safety car. A fresh rain-storm then forced him to pit again to change back to wet tyres which negated the time he had been gaining. This storm resulted in the race being stopped for two hours, a real trial of indecision for any of the highly-focussed and strained drivers who were forced to wait.

The race restarted on a track which was still very wet and Button’s bad luck was compounded by contact with Alonso which resulted in a puncture. More safety cars and pit-stops later Button was beginning to work his way up the field past Heidfeld, Kobayashi, Webber and Schumacher.

…set to whittling the lead…

He was then second but with Vettel over eight seconds ahead. Button set to whittling the lead down and was doing a good job before the German made an uncharacteristic error which allowed Button to sail through to take the win.

Overall the race was completely mad but Button kept working his way through, overcoming so many obstacles to just that he was in the right place at the right time. He later described the drive as the “best win of (his) career” and it was a truly inspired race.

…by a little bit of luck…

The win, however, was gifted to him by a little bit of luck and it was this luck which was a little too rare for Jenson this season. Fortunately, his work this season has resulted in a 3 year contract at Mclaren so his cheery grin and friendly attitude will be a feature of Formula 1 for years to come.

Image courtesy Jenson Button
 

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