Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso offer career advice to young Formula 1 drivers
McLaren
Jenson Button Fernando Alonso
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  25 Sep 2015   |  11:50 am GMT  |  33 comments

Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso have 525 Formula 1 starts between them, the two most experienced drivers on the grid and this week the two champions have offered their perspective on the merits of a young driver starting with a back of the grid team.

The 2015 F1 driver market is slowly closing up and it looks as though some promising young drivers will be ‘placed’ by their powerful teams in lower ranked teams, like Manor. It is a path Alonso himself followed with Minardi, while Daniel Ricciardo’s first season with HRT also allowed him to learn the ropes with little pressure. Button, in contrast was a works driver on debut with Williams BMW and has candidly admitted the problems with that approach.

Jenson Button

Drivers like Alonso and Button have raced in F1 for 15 years or more, and drivers with budget taking priority for midfield teams, places for talented young drivers are limited.

McLaren dropped Kevin Magnussen after one season in 2014, as Button kept his drive alongside Alonso, but now another of the team’s juniors, Stoffel Vandoorne, is dominating GP2 and hopes to graduate to F1 next year.

Mercedes also has a young driver on its books: Pascal Wehrlein. The German currently leads the DTM standings and has tested for the team in the past. The manufacturer wants him racing in F1 next season.

Pascal Wehrlein

Where Wehrlein has the advantage over Vandoorne and Magnussen, is that as Mercedes supply engines to teams up and down the grid, they could use those units as a bargaining ploy to get the 20-year-old an F1 seat. Speculation is already mounting that Wehrlein could join Manor as part of a deal that would see the minnow outfit run Mercedes power in 2016.

Starting an F1 career in a small team has its advantages. Without the pressure of expectation that comes with a front running car, drivers can learn about competing at the highest level and make the inevitable rookie mistakes outside the glare of the spotlight.

Alonso’s advice to Young Guns
Alonso began his F1 career at the back of the grid in 2001, while Button stated with Williams in 2000, a team that was much further up the grid.

Fernando Alonso

The double world champion reckons that starting out with a smaller team is the best way for a young F1 driver to develop, as long as there is a chance to move up the grid later on.

He said: “It’s not fun to be at the back, but we have to choose the best ways to start and if you start in a small team then you don’t have pressure. There are lots of expectations when you arrive in F1, also technical changes and many things you have to learn, so if you do it at a slower pace and are a bit more relaxed, it’s welcome.

“But obviously if you have a competitive car and you show some results as soon as you arrive in F1, it’s also good to show your potential to everyone, so it’s a mix.

“But it’s probably better to start in a small team, as far as you know that for every [low] result you have, you will have a seat in a competitive team later on, [because] that’s the risk with starting in a small team.”

Button’s advice to Young Guns
Button explained that while he enjoyed his time at Williams, the fast pace of the car meant he did not learn the importance of good set-up work, and this hindered him when he subsequently found himself in a less competitive car later in his career.

XPB.cc

He said: “[Williams] was a team that was in the middle of the pack, so it was actually really good [and] I really enjoyed my first year, especially with Frank Williams and Patrick Head. It was a good atmosphere and [they were] really good people to learn off of, [and] there was so much experience in the squad.

“It was good, but the problem was that the car worked pretty well so I didn’t really do too much on set-up, which was my failure and I didn’t learn as much as I should have. So when I ended up driving a difficult car it was a lot more difficult for me.

“It’s all experience, but what is the right way? I’m sure we’d have both liked to have jumped in a winning car in our first years, but that doesn’t often happen at the pinnacle of motorsport.

“Then I spent two years developing my skills in an F1 car in the Benetton and then Fernando came along [at Renault in 2003] and stole the seat, so I was basically just doing all the work for him!”

Jenson Button Fernando Alonso

Joining Manor, if a deal for 2016 can be worked out, would be an ideal starting place for Wehrlein and Vandoorne to get to grips with F1. For Magnussen, going to the back of the grid might be considered a step back, but it would still be better than another year on the F1 side-lines.

But the speculation surrounding Button’s own F1 future leaves the possibility for one of McLaren’s junior drivers to partner Alonso next year. While the team’s Honda engines are currently off the pace, the team is a de facto works outfit, even if it is currently stuck in the midfield.

Therefore, in 2016 we could again see new drivers starting their F1 careers at the opposite ends of the grid as Button and Alonso did themselves all those years ago.

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1

I can’t help think (cinic) their comments are aimed at Lewis and Mclaren and not young drivers.

I’d love a read of Alonso’s contract. He will be watching Vandoorne like a hawk. I hope Mclaren don’t mess things up again like with Lewis. This time the fine will be 200,000,000.

2

ALOnso to Haas next year. Nobody wants to contemplate the idea, but why not?

I know Honda are very keen on him, but I doubt they have much negotiating power at the moment…

3

LOL do you really think Haas has the cash for FA?

4

Absolutely. Whether he wants to spend it in such a way is a different matter.

5

Benetton had a nice lineup of race and test drivers in 2001.

Button, Fisichella, Alonso, and Webber.

Certainly must be one of the better race and test driver lineups that a team has had!

6

1. Never trust Ron Dennis.

2. Er…

3. …that’s it.

7

I read the title and ironic thoughts cam flooding into my mind! Alonso and Button dispensing advice? They are massively experienced quick drivers but…..

Jenson is a smashing bloke but without the Brawn diffuser advantage and the fact his only opposition being Reubens he has a WDC of questionable validity.

And Alonso has immense driving talent but ‘only’ two WDC (sorry Fernando). Good effort, but with his God given talent I think there surely should have been more.

Truly great drivers have a knack of getting themselves in the best cars, and making the most of it. recent history says that Vettel and Hamilton are the guys to dispense advice. If I were a young driver I know who I’d want to talk to!

8

There’s always a but.
Like I’ve written 4 paragraphs, but, 2 of them are complete [Mod]

9

without the Brawn diffuser advantage and his only opposition being Reubens he (Button) has a WDC of questionable validity.”

But nevertheless he has a WDC.Right place at right time. End of. Of course, Button may well opt out of F1 end of this season and broaden his career option by joining a BBC motorshow, it is alleged.

10

If Button talks about racecraft and car development, throw it in the garbage.

If Alonso talks about team motivation and strategy, throw it in the garbage.

Generally, these two are poor examples to go by.

11

Alonso’s career in F1 is down to him doing a deal with the [Mod] Flabbio Briatore, Button’s career was almost finished by Briatore who called him a lazy playboy whilst installing his own proteje alonso in the seat, a man who he also was personally managing.

Ironically, after many years with cars of dubious legality Briatore and others in his team were convicted of staging the Piquet crash in Singapore to help Alonso, there was no serious attempt to investigate Alonso for this when he was clearly party to it..

So, not such a great role model for up and coming drivers we hope !

12

Totally forgot that Alonso took that seat Button had his eye on. But come on, Alonso is like a son to Flavio. He’d give Alonso his supermodel girlfriend if it was called for. So what did you expect Jenson?

13

I am sure both men would be happier back in those V10 cars…

Please get rid of this hybrid non-sense

14

the non-sense is to stay for now & “tomorrow”

It will be sensible for the formula;

it is like a dream for someone looking at yet the reality we live in.

15

Oh for goodness sake go watch something else… Please!

16

For a young driver, it might be better to learn what Vettel and Hamilton think about this.

17

I don’t think they would have the same relevance, as in both Alonso and BUtton entered F1 after rising through the ranks as a independents and not as part of a junior programme a la Hamilton and Vettel.

Vettel and Hamilton have both had the benefit if being ‘steered’ and supported by a team or manufacturer.

18

The point being, Vettel and Hamilton are more successful in CURRENT F1. So their advice would be a bit more relevant.

19

Being an Alonso man through and through, I sincerely hope he’s not giving advice on when to join a team… the guy’s been jinxed since ’07!

20

True that! There’s no doubting Alonso’s quality as a driver: both in terms of talent and the huge amount of performance he brings to a team. But his decisions since leaving Renault have been questionable. That was/is ultimately his fault, since he’s the one who signs on the dotred line; but I can’t help but feel keeping Flavio Briatore as his manager (and well trusted advisor) had a huge hand in those decisions.

21

Ham man – I thought it was Alonso stumbling around the track at Singapore…

Looking for his 6 tenths 🙂

Actually that’s craul – he deserves better

22

“huge amount of performance he brings to a team” 😀

6 tenths?

23

Flav wanted Alonso to stay in Renault in 2007, but Alonso went to McLaren.

24

All I can say: Don’t listen to Alonso.

25

+1

Alonso has been a study of making the wrong moves at the wrong time.

26

Add to that, the fact that he made a shrewd decision to go to Mclaren but due to an emotional meltdown he dobbed them in to the FIA for having secret Ferrari data which impacted on both the teams competitiveness for years and pushed Alonso into a less competitive Renault drive. If only Alonso had been able just figure a way to make the situation at Mclaren work then he could easily have been able to rack up another couple of championships in such a dominant car/team even allowing for a talented teammate as Hamilton. Definitely when vyou look back at Alonso’s career, even accounting for his two championships, it is a story of squandered opportunity and emotional decision making which dented his movement opportunities later in his career as so many teams such as Red Bull would have loved to have such a talented driver driving for them but not at the risk of team harmony.

27

Or Button for that matter….

28

Chris, Alonso has been making all the wrong decisions between top teams. Button is no different, except that before that he’s also been making all the wrong decisions between relatively midfield teams before graduating to top teams.

29

Why not either of them?

30

Nice to hear Button & Alonso giving advice yo up & coming Rookie Drivers.

Good luck to JB if & when he retires.

Man the photo of youthful Alonso . He hss a face full of Thunder! I assume his favourite dish wasn’t on the menu in the Renault Cafe. Or they’d locked themselves out…again.

31

That “midfield” line jumped out at me also. Kind or optimistic,9th in the constructors table out of 10 and little over half the points of the 8th placed Sauber, tough times ahead if things don’t improve dramatically for next season.

32

“stuck in the midfield”

That is a very optimistic way of putting it, perhaps they sort of were in Singapore, normally they are firmly back of the grid material… It would be very interesting if Manor builds a decent chassis next year with a mercedes engine, and McHonda fail to really improve over the winter, which team will be faster! Talk about painful!

33

Depends how you define “mid-field” I guess. In this case it could be:

Front runners:

Mercedes

Mid-field:

Ferrari

Williams

Red Bull

Force India

Lotus

Sauber

Toro Rosso

McLaren

Backmarkers:

Manor

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