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How Brawn has changed Button
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How Brawn has changed Button
Posted By:   |  28 Apr 2009   |  6:29 am GMT  |  49 comments

Jenson Button took his third win of the season on Sunday in fine style. This was a victory which demanded a great deal of care, because he didn’t have the fastest car out there on the day, not even on the qualifying day, even though the Brawn had appeared to have the legs of the others in Friday practice.
smiley-jenson-3-thumb1

He also had to be aggressive on the opening lap, to regain the place lost to Lewis Hamilton at the start. F1 fans around the world are now debating whether Button can capitalise on the superb start he has made to the first part of the season and win the world title. He will face a growing challenge from teams like McLaren, Renault and Ferrari, while Toyota and Red Bull are already on his pace.

But I sense a real difference about Jenson this year. I think that Ross Brawn has given him a greater sense of disclipline, not just in his driving, but in his life as a whole. And in that pass on Hamilton, he showed the importance of giving nothing away, something which characterised Michael Schumacher’s driving and Ross Brawn’s whole approach to racing.

Button has always had a great talent and a uniquely smooth style. And when he started, he learned the F1 ropes pretty quickly, let’s not forget that this is the man, who at the age of 20, on his first visit to Spa, pointed out to the FIA’s Charlie Whiting that the 100 metre braking board was in the wrong place on the approach to La Source hairpin. They measured it and found he was correct.

So, behind this rather laid-back facade, a sympathy for precision and discipline has always been there, but many years in bad cars had rather blunted the edge. Also the same lack of discipline and leadership in the technical department at Honda, which caused them to misfire, has been transformed under Brawn’s leadership.

I’ll give you a small example, every time Button enters the pits during practice he drives into his pit box, with the mechanics in the positions they would be in for a pit stop. He comes in and stops in position. But that is not where it ends, there is a brief pause on the radio and then Andrew Shovlin, Button’s race engineer will say, “Ten centimetres out.”

There is no further comment, no response from Jenson.

Sometimes he comes in and you will hear Brawn himself say, “Perfect position Jenson.”

It matters because it means that when he stops for real in the race, the refuellers will be able to do their job more easily and the stop will be faster. This is what you call taking care of the details and it is the hallmark of Ross Brawn, honed over many years together with Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. The ethos at Ferrari was that everyone had to give 100% all the time and if they each counted on each other to do that, they would be successful. It has undoubtedly sharpened up Button’s racecraft. He seems very on top of every aspect of the game at the moment.

“I’ve got no doubts about Jenson’s ability to win, ” Ross said on Saturday. “The way he is driving, that part is taken care of.

“It’s up to us to produce the performance in the car, do the pit stops, the strategies, and make sure the car is reliable.”

His personal life has been rather chaotic for much of his F1 career, you recall the dithering over moves back to Williams and the odd situation where he had to buy himself out of his contract. Now after a few years under Richard Goddard’s management that side of his life seems to have settled down and become more under control. There is a unity of purpose about every aspect of his life. I’ve seen it before in racing drivers, when they get into a position to win races and championships, they get into the ‘zone’.

Button is in the zone now.

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49comments

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1

I look around your site quite often but this is my first post, I must say a great job on the site its great to have some ears to ground on the inside. Jenson always has been a fantastic driver but never really had the machinary to match his ambition. As you mention the last few years seem to had blunted his enthusiam but Ross seems to have re instilled that drive and determination to win. Jenson is the very reason I started to support BAR, then Honda and now BGP as I love his fluid style.

2

Thank you James for an interesting, intellectual, insight into F1. And also for creating a forum with sensible replies (90%)of the time, without the childish pedantic sensless drivel that most other sites provide, it’s always a pleasure to come on here an learn something new, journalism at it’s best every day of the week. AND FOR FREE.! ! !So once again THANKS.

3

I’m not sure I understand what those of you saying Jenson has yet to win against someone in an as quick or quicker car. The Brawn was the second or third fastest car in Bahrain as a result of compromises made for the sake of cooling.

4

Hello again, James.

Nice post. Jenson is really ready for the WDC. He is more consistent and faster than any other driver at this moment.

But I have a little request for you.

I have no doubt that Jenson and Rubens are driving under same conditions, But many brazilians (not me) believe he is an very outdated driver, calling him “slow driver”, “turtle”…

A couple of days ago his website was hacked. He is very unpopular here. But I still support him.

So, if possible, could you draw some lines about how Rubens are evaluated outside Brazil? I will translate to my contrymen, with your permission.

5

Jenson is the Chris Amon of F1

He has often been his worst enemy – remind yourself of his bad career choices and how he has not managed his PR well in teh paddock.

Yes I do genuinely think he is the smoothest driver on the current grid – Jackie Stewart-esque. He gets the most from his tyres and that will bode well this year

Do I think he will win the WDC….. hmmm

We will probably know around the time of Silverstone. By then, we’ll know the status of the ‘B’ spec car grid – post Barcelona. We’ll also have had Monaco which is a real driver leveller – and gives good indicator to driver form

Then the car potential and the driver form combination will be more predicatable – at the moment its too difficult to predict.

6

Another excellent examination of a driver coming into his own, James. This site has to be first call every time I look for the real deal on F1.

What a season this is developing into ! Barcelona is going to get really spicy. And then there’s Monaco and Spa …bloody marvellous !

Loads of people are trying to predict the outcome of this season. They must be out of their skulls ! There must be at least six drivers who could win this years WDC !

Wow !

7

Nice piece, Mr. Allen. You could be the successor to Rob Walker I’ve wished for over the years since his departure.

It’s clear winning in F1 these days requires a good car, a good driver, and a good team. Absent any of those elements, the chances for success are significantly reduced, as is evident with the current results of teams which were dominant in the recent past.

Button has “paid his dues”, and I for one would like to see Button and Brawn win the championship, not because they “deserve” it, but because they have so
far earned their position in a manner which speaks of
intelligence, perseverance, and class. Formula 1
could use more of this.

8

This article (and the Mark Hughes piece) gives a great insight into JB.

Jenson is a driver that looked “made for F1” as soon as he put his bum in the car ten years ago. However, as he will have discovered during his lean years, you also need the right car and a good measure of luck.

He has the car (so far) but will he get the luck?

I hope so.

9

Great insight, James. Your articles have always been top stuff.

10

I’m still not convinced he’s on the same level as the elite in F1. I still think the Brawn has up to 3 tenths on the next best car in race trim.
Reading Mansell’s autobiography, he seemed quite skeptical as to whether the textbook smooth style of driving is the fastest way around a racing circuit.

His move on Hamilton however was a distinct improvement over some of his previous race crafts.

11

Jenson and his advisors, know that this may be his last chance to capitalise upon his talent… that tends to focus the mind.

After being told for several years Honda was the way to go, it seemed to have back-fired for him. BAR looked good for a time, but lost their way as Honda took more and more control. It can only have been demoralising for Jenson watching their cars get worse; whilst others got better.

[I can see Rosberg suffering from this… as Williams move backwards this season (again!), as others develop beyond them.]

With some maturity on his side (an evolution, rather than a direct change initiated by Brawn) and the car coming good… it’s time to make hay whilst the sun shines [ok, not the greatest metaphor considering how much rain we’ve had at the races ;-)]

This season just gets better and better… we have the “unusual suspects” at the front, doing a good job; whilst the “usual suspects” are starting to close in…

Can they catch them? Can the others stay ahead? Where are BMW? Will teams that have said they’re not going to use KERS, suddenly do a u-turn? So many questions…!!

Looking forward to seeing the answers… 🙂

Peace.

12

James – another really interesting piece, thanks

I don’t doubt that Brawn or Team Brawn has raised Jenson’s game a notch, but isn’t it all rather simplistic when we’re still to see him put under pressure by a faster car, especially someone relentless like Lewis or Fernando

Whilst I’m delighted for him this season, there are – for me – a few too many cases in previous races of Jenson not being the hardest fella to get past. I assume that this element of ‘mental toughness’ will get some attention by the team.

However, what I am curious about is the feeling in the paddock about the Jenson of 2009 after 4 races? Are the older wags recalling the ‘lost wins’ of 2004 (Imola vs MS) and moves on him which a JV or Alonso would never have let stick in a month of Sundays?

13

James.
Great commentary on a great web-site.
Keep it coming. Thanks.

14

There is also a good piece on jenson by Mark Hughes on the bbc website.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8022027.stm

Seems to me that Hamilton, schumacher, Alonso are the ‘complete’ drivers – but in the ‘best’ car button would be just as quick (but as such maybe not as adaptable?).

Perhaps vettel can be added to the ‘complete’ list too – but he must first show he can still perform under extreme pressure – ie not just when he is expected to win but when there is a championship at stake?

15

Chris, please justify this assertion with some evidence. I don’t recall such an incident. In fact i don’t recall button being on the podium last year, how would such an interaction ever have taken place.

16

I always thought Webber was a bit like this but I’m beginning to wonder now – he seemed to have so much promise when he first started in F1.

Very pleased for Button though – he’s doing a great job. Glad Ross has bought some magic to the team. Would have been rubbish if Button and Barichello ended their F1 careers that way.

17

I agree Jenson is driving brilliantly this year, he’ll be WDC for sure. His head is definitely up this year and I’m sure Ross has influenced that but I’m not so sure he’s changed as much as you may think. Looking back at his races between 2003-06 his performances were sublime, he would have been winning a lot of races back then had it not been for the stupidly strong Ferrari.

18

I always remember Hamilton saying to Button at the end of a race last season “You had your chance”, before Hamilton went up on the podium to smugly take 1st place.

At the time I thought it was extremely arrogant coming from a kid who had walked into a team that had a fantastic championship winning car, which is something Jenson has never had the chance to drive.

The start to this new season and the pass on Hamilton in Bahrain has certainly made Hamilton eat his words and I think it just goes to show that bar a few, every racer on the circuit is capable of winning races given the right car and team.

I believe Lewis got caught up in his own hype as a driver and forget that it was the car and team handing him success on a plate when he made that stinging comment to Jenson (who laughed it off at the time).

I hope the Brawn’s success continues and Jenson get’s to build on the perfect start to the season.

19

There’s a great article about Jenson by Mark Hughes on the BBC website today which makes a lot of great points and actually complements James’s piece quite well.
I have to say, I’m so happy to see how it’s going this season. I’ve been waiting a long time for this; I had probably even given up on thinking he’d ever get a chance. His touch has always been phenomenal, his race pace always consistent and throughout his career there have been those moments of genius where he’s blown people away. Didn’t he fool everyone into going out on the wrong tyres at the US race in his first season?
Anyway, it seems as though his enormous talent will not, after all, be consigned to the bin marked ‘what if’. I hope Brawn can keep the car on the pace this season and Jenson can win the title he’s always promised.

20

Three wins out of four. Good performance. This is world champion standards. In baharein, we saw his best race to date.
You are destroying barrichello, like schumacher did,
but vettel and hamilton won`t be that easy.
Jenson, we are watching you.
It is up to you, how history will be written in 09.

21

Jenson is a phenomenal talent and always has been. Unfortunately hes wasted alot of years in uncompetetive cars… perhaps even too many…

22

Really interesting stuff – and an excellent article. I believe that Jenson is more than capable of winning the championship on merit – you only have to see what people who knew him before he got his big break thought/think to realise that he’s a fantastic talent, very gentle on the car but blisteringly fast and determined when necessary. In his early F1 days I remember him spinning on the warming-up lap – at Monza I think – and after that he seldom made a mistake in practice, qualifying or the race. Granted his management was chaotic and the ‘red-tops’ cottoned onto him as a playboy. But make no mistake, he knows how to win now and we’re seeing a new Jenson who’s actually the same as the old one…but with that extra ingredient of success! I think that it’s impossible to judge him on the Honda years – other than to point out that when the car was capable of being anything more than being an ‘also ran’ Jenson scored points with it and even won at the Hungaroring in appalling conditions. Last year’s car was a total dog. We should be proud of the fact that Jenson is not only British – but someone who comes over well on TV without whingeing and whining. He’ll be a great ambassador for the sport and fits in well with the Branson ethos too. I predict a multi-year partnership with Brawn and the possibility of multi-championships too, given a fair wind.
Geoff Thomas

23

People often cite last season against Jenson, but they seem to forget the season before where he drove the wheels off another crap Honda car and out-raced and pointed Rubens through to the end of the season.

24

From the outside, it seems that Brawn’s primary focus is with Button …. the de facto No 1. Is that right? Is Rubens there to make up the numbers, score some points, and use his experience to bolster the team and JB? Or is Rubens there with a real shout to win races and fight for the championship in his own right?

25

Jenson has spent 2 years with his massive talent crippled by appalling cars.

This whole Ross Brawn has transformed Button is rubbish. Cf. “To put Button’s success down to the excellence of this year’s Brawn car is to grossly under-estimate his talent.” (Mark Hughes) whose analysis is compelling – http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8022027.stm What has transformed Button is at last having a car which he can work with rather than against.

Button is *the* stand-out driver in the wet and has been consistently so for many years. Only in 2004 and 2005 has he had a decent enough car to show his real pace in the dry. Imola 2004 stands out in my memory – Schumacher ‘he set a mind blowing pace – it was a though I was driving in the wet and he was in the dry’: “‘Jenson was unreal, he was unbelievable”; Montoya.

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