Jenson Button reaches 300 F1 starts – what should the 2009 world champion do on his sabbatical in 2017?
McLaren
Jenson Button
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  29 Sep 2016   |  1:06 am GMT  |  35 comments

Jenson Button will make his 300th Formula 1 start at this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix as he enters the final six races of the 2016 season before taking a sabbatical from his McLaren race seat for next year.

At the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month, it was announced that Stoffel Vandoorne would partner Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2017, with Button signing a new two-year contract that binds him to the team as an ambassador, ready to race if his teammates cannot, with an option for a return in 2018.

Assuming he takes part in all of the remaining races this season, Button will have amassed 305 F1 starts since making his debut at the 2000 Australian Grand Prix and although the possibility of him returning in 2018 remains, that scenario will heavily depend on Alonso’s future plans for that season.

Jenson Button

“This is definitely the right thing, I’m going to be seeing my family more which is something I’m very excited about,” he said after his decision to take a sabbatical had been made public. “I feel like a kid again, and suddenly I’m in a great position.”

So what could the 2009 end up doing next season? If anything happens to Vandoorne or Alonso he’ll have to be ready to race, much like the former did at the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this year, and Button has promised to continue training as hard as ever.

Vandoorne, the 2015 GP2 champion, has spent 2016 racing in the Super Formula championship and that could be a potential way for Button to stay race sharp while spending a year on the F1 sidelines. The cars used in the Japanese championship are very fast and as the calendar is only seven rounds long it suits Button’s desire to avoid a similarly demanding schedule to F1.

Jenson Button Stoffel Vandoorne

Button has spoken about competing at Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship in the past, but the crack LMP1 squads are no longer entering extra cars for the blue ribbon 24 Hour race – as Porsche did with Nico Hulkenberg’s drive at Le Mans in 2015 – and they are unlikely to change their current main line ups in any case.

McLaren has a healthy GT programme that Button could conceivably compete in and he has spoken about possibly racing in Japan’s Super GT championship.

A more compelling idea is for Button to race a RallyCross car in a championship or at selected events in 2017. His father John raced RallyCross cars in the 1970s and Button has already spoken favourably about racing the category. The FIA’s WRX championship is growing ever more popular, as is Red Bull’s Global RallyCross series, which is based in the US.

The 36-year-old moving more into the media also cannot be ruled out. Button made a popular appearance on the most recent series of Top Gear and has since been linked with further work for the show.

Poll

But what about after 2017? Do you think Button will race an F1 car again after the end of this year?


Button’s best races:

Brazil 2000

Just two races into his F1 career as a 20-year-old Williams driver, Button finished sixth to collect his first world championship point.

Jenson Button

He rose from ninth on the grid to the final points paying position, putting a move on Max Verstappen’s father Jos shortly before the end of the race at Interlagos. At his first British Grand Prix two races later, Button qualified sixth and finished fifth.

Malaysia 2002

After a difficult year with Benetton in 2001, Button, racing for the same squad that had been bought by Renault for 2002, was in line for his first ever F1 podium in the second race of the season at Malaysia.

But his R202 suffered a suspension problem late on that dropped him into the clutches of Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, who demoted the Briton to fourth.

Malaysia 2004

Two years later, Button, now at BAR, finally sealed his first F1 podium by finishing third at Sepang.

Jenson Button

He would go on to score nine more rostrum visits that year, as well as record his first pole at Imola, and he finished third in the drivers’ championship.

Hungary 2006

In his 114th race, Button finally took the first F1 victory he craved by winning the chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix in 2006.

From 14th on the grid (a ten-place engine change penalty dropped him back from fourth) he rose to the front while others – notably Alonso, polesitter Kimi Raikkonen and Schumacher – came to grief, and the Honda driver won by 30 seconds over McLaren’s Pedro de La Rosa.

Australia 2009

Button took pole and the win in the first race of the 2009 season – a result that seemed unthinkable when Honda announced it was pulling out of F1 in December 2008.

Jenson Button

But Ross Brawn rescued the Brackley-based squad, which got the rapid BGP 001 to Melbourne despite missing much of winter testing and getting a late deal to use Mercedes engines. Button and teammate Rubens Barrichello did the rest – a 1-2 formation finish that set the tone for a remarkable season.

Brazil 2009

Button sealed the 2009 world title in Brazil by finishing fifth at Interlagos. After taking six wins from the first seven races of that season, he had been on the defensive as Brawn slipped back towards Red Bull pace-wise, and Barrichello kept himself in the hunt with crucial wins in Valencia and Monza.

A rain disrupted qualifying session meant Button started the Brazilian race down in 14th. He was aided by an incident-filled first lap, but then put in a series of moves to climb well into the top ten. Barrichello’s eventual dramas meant Button would be crowned champion even if he did not finish, but he came home fifth to seal the title, singing “We are the Champions” over his team radio as he did so.

China 2010

Button had already taken his first McLaren victory in only his second race – in changing conditions in Australia – when he quickly followed that triumph with the win in China two events later.

Jenson Button

After electing to stay out on slicks when it began raining early in the race along with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Renault’s Robert Kubica, Button moved into the lead and ultimately held off a resurgent Hamilton in increasingly wet conditions to become the first repeat winner of the 2010 season.

Canada 2011

Arguably Button’s most famous win came at Montreal in 2011. He survived contact with Hamilton, served a drive-through penalty for speeding behind the safety car, waited two-hours while torrential rain suspended the race, and then collided with Alonso shortly after the restart and picked up a puncture, which dropped him to last place.

From there he made his way all the way up to second by the final lap and took advantage of race leader Sebastian Vettel’s mistake at Turn six to steal the lead on the final lap and take the unlikeliest of wins.

Japan 2011

After being forced to take to the grass on the run to the first corner by Vettel and then moving past Hamilton to retake second place, Button moved into the lead at Suzuka by staying out longer than the Red Bull driver at his second stop.

Jenson Button

He ultimately held off Alonso and Vettel to claim a “special” victory in a country he loves.

Belgium 2012

Button was utterly supreme at Spa in 2012. He claimed pole ahead of Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and pulled clear of the pack after the Romain Grosjean-triggered Turn 1 pile up.

The McLaren driver finished 13 seconds clear of Vettel on a weekend where he was simply untouchable. Button’s win at Brazil later that season remains his, and McLaren’s, most recent F1 win.

Jenson Button

What do you think Button will do during his sabbatical? And do you think we’ll see him race an F1 car again after the conclusion of this season? Take our poll and leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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1

This “sabbatical” idea is nonsense. He may as well just say he’s retiring like Felipe Massa. I can’t believe that he is being so loyal to McLaren after the way they’ve treated him over the years. He should have taken Massa’s vacant seat at Williams when it was offered. He is too good an F1 driver to be squeezed out like this!

2

Always a class act and role model for the field. Best wishes and congrats to McLaren for recognizing the value of a true Champion !

3

Maybe there’ll be a climatic glitch such that McLaren need a rain master back in the team.

For his career break, I’d love to see Jenson Button in a rally cross car — although sponsorship clashes would block him from driving a VW Beetle.

What do McLaren or Honda have to offer? A few demonstrations in the McLaren M2B (with Serenissima or Ford power) or any 1960s Honda F1 car would be interesting but the cars are too fragile for racing. Would Ron allow Jenson to go racing in a monster powered McLaren Can-Am car?

4

Somebody needs to get a BGP 001 to Abu Dhabi so Jenson can do a few farewell demonstration laps / donuts for us all…?!

5

I’m very disappointed that he did not take the Williams offer to drive for them next year. McLaren’s treatment of him has been appalling with year on year uncertainty about his contract for the following year; they no not deserve his loyalty! As to a “sabbatical” that is almost certainly the end of his F1 career. For the first time in as long as I can remember, it looks probable that there will only be one British driver on the grid in 2017.

6

I voted this will be his last year but if the youngster beats Alonso, Jenson could get his seat in 2018.

7

He will come back if Fernando quits, but I don’t see him moving to another team. Interesting that JB raced against Jos and Max, has anyone else raced against father and son in F1?

8

Kimi Raikkonen, presumably – though he seems to have had more problems with Max than Jos!

9

Michael Schumacher raced against Satoru Nakajima in the ’91 Belgain GP. He *could have* raced his son Kazuki if it wasn’t for Schumacher’s 3 year hiatus from 07 to 09, when Kazuki was active in F1. However, it didn’t happen.

10

James did hint “Top Gear” the other day…could work, and he’d certainly make a better host than some 🙂

11

Something in a Honda!!

– Indycar
– Super Formula
– Super GT, GT500 or GT300 in new NSX GT3
– WTCC (lol not really)
– BlancPain in NSX GT3
– Bathurst 12 Hr in an NSX GT3

Would also be great to see JB as a co-driver in the Supercars Enduro Cup in Australia.

12

He’s already said he’s going to be doing a lot more triathlons so maybe none of the above.

13

Assuming he won’t be in F1 next year, how about something completely different?..He would be brilliant driving two or four man bobsleigh. With his smooth style and top level of fitness, it would be very interesting. He need to put on about 3 stone but….someone put him in one just to see…

14

👏Congrats JB 👏
Now WEC and Rally Cross beckons.

15

Does anyone really believe this PR message of ‘sabbatical’? I’m a fan of Jenson but he really needs to lay off the rhetoric about it all being about what he wants to do. Even if Nando pulls the pin in 2018 the Honda will be pretty competitive by then and there will be a wide range of options for McLaren to put in the car alongside Stof (e.g. Perez, Hulk, Gro). Retire well Jenson – you were a worthy champion and made the most of your opportunities with 305 FIA Formula 1 grand prix. Hope to hear you on the commentary team at Sky.

16

I think Jenson should jump into the seat now vacant by Vandoorne in the super formula championship. Only 7 races and it is in Japan, close to Honda and in a country he loves. Rallycross would be cool but the very nature of it might well risk his condition, there’s more chance of a big prang. He’ll probably do some triathlon events too.

He will be driving for McLaren again in 2018. Alonso will either retire or move to Renault.

17

Jenson will not return unless McHonda are desperate for a stand in sometime. Vandoorne beat him at the first attempt, despite the short notice. He is a very likeable English driver who has benefited greatly from that, but has always been a #2 driver. His WDC was a gift from Max (the illegal DD) and even then he nearly lost out to a [Mod] confirmed #2 driver (Barrichello). I know lots of my fellow English fans will disagree but he deserves credit for his personality and not the WDC he lucked into. I wish him well.!!

18

I don’t remember him nearly losing out to Barichello either!

19

The double diffuser wasn’t illegal. Contentious, maybe, and the legality was certainly challenged, but the design of a successful F1 car has always been in part to the best possible interpretation of the regulations. It was deemed legal and along with the Mercedes engine made the car unbeatable at the beginning of the season.

Given that the team did not have the budget to do anything like the sort of in-season development that all of the other teams had it was important to bank the points early in the season, and JB did exactly that. Yes he was in the best car at the start of 2009 but it wasn’t anything like the best by the end of the season, and it was some excellent driving which took him to his title.

Most – not all, but most – WDCs are won in the best car. Yes, there is some luck involved in being in the right car at the right time, but most of the articles written by F1 journalists, whose opinions I trust more than my own as an armchair fan, seem to think that he won it on merit too.

20

Well said.

21

” I know lots of my fellow English fans will disagree” Like I said.!!

22

Hate to burst your bubble Andrew, but I’m not English 🙂

Best car or not, no-one wins a WDC without putting in the work so credit where it’s due.

23

I voted no, he won’t race in F1 again.
However,part of me hopes that the new cars will be so unbelievably fast dangerous and difficult to drive that either Alonso or Stoff will crash out and need Jensen to step in and spectacularly take the WDC against all odds again.
What a movie that would make!

24

Jenson should definitely score a McLaren drive at the Bathurst 12 hour

25

Either mclaren 2018 or a 2 year deal at Renault if they show up next year with a race car! Canada race was so long and dramatic I had to open a second bottle! Great career no matter what his plans are and one of the few drivers who’s interviews did not make me feel like I had ‘locked in syndrome ‘

26

Isn’t Alonso looking for a new team in 18??

27

If McLaren are competitive next year I imagine Alonso will stay on for another year.
If McLaren are not competitive next year Alonso will probably leave/ retire.
Why Jenson would want to return to race a backmarker/ midfield I don’t know.
I don’t think McLaren would want or need him in that situation either.

28

Because F1 is still the top table in terms of Motorsport

29

But why stay just to make up the numbers? Jenson has nothing to prove to anyone in F1.
I think Jenson would be better off winning in IndyCar, wtcc, wec, dtm or oz supercars than just driving around the back of the pack taking the seat of a talented youngster.
He has the talent and personality to succeed in a different series.

30

IMO JB should race and develop the new Honda NSX.
I believe that the loss of Papa Smurff and the break up with the gal this year has hit him hard and the pleasure of running in the F1 Circus is gone.
A more sparse racing series will suit him better, alonside some triathlon events.

31

Yes, he will drive an F1 car again.

A V8 demo car to wow crowds to F1 with car and sound fans can no longer really experience.

Which reminds me, Red Bull has done bunch of demos recently. Always with 2012 or other V8 car. Why? Is it because if PU car was used fans would shrug their shoulders and say “This is F1?”

32

+1,0000000 to infinity!!

33

To infinity and beyond!

34

Jenson could do Le Mans in a McLaren GT!!

35

I do hope that’s a rhetorical question

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