Former World Champion Jenson Button and favourite Hispania driver Karun Chandhok both celebrate birthdays today. Jenson is 31, and Karun is 27.
Englishman Jenson Button began driving at the age of eight. Despite that, he still failed his first driving test! In 1999 he entered British Formula Three, finishing as top rookie and third overall. Next year, he entered Formula One.
He began aged 20 in Williams, having won a test with McLaren and also testing for Prost. He thus became Britain’s youngest ever F1 driver. He then became the youngest driver (at the time) to score a point, at the Brazilian GP (since beaten by Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastian Vettel). He finished 8th overall, with 12 points.
Next season he moved to Benetton with Fisichella, and only finished 7th. Then he headed to Renault for 2002, next to Trulli, and finished seventh. Next season he went to BAR, with a much better car. He managed a third-place finish in 2004, behind the Ferraris of Barrichello and Schumacher.
In 2006, Honda had bought out BAR, and they brought in Barrichello to drive. The pair were team mates for the next four seasons. The economic crisis meant Honda couldn’t keep their F1 team, but Team Principal Ross Brawn bought it out and formed Brawn GP. It was Button’s year to shine! In 2009, Brawn became the first team to win the championship in their debut year (apart from the first year of F1).
With the takeover of Brawn by Mercedes, Button moved to McLaren, where he has fitted in well alongside his fellow Englishman. It’s almost like he’s always been there. He finished fifth in the 2010 season, with his most recent race ending on the podium alongside 2008 champion Lewis and the new champion Sebastian.
Karun Chandhok is Indian, and the second one to enter F1. He was the Indian National Racing Champion in 2000, with pole and fastest lap in every race. In 2001, he became the youngest-ever Asian Formula Champion in Formula 2000 Asia. Next year he moved towards British Formula Three, first in the national and then in the main class.
Next up was Formula Renault 3.5 for part of the season, and in 2006 he won the first ever Formula Asia V6 by Renault championship. Then it was GP2, where he took his first win at Spa. In November 2007, Red Bull let him test for them at Catalunya. In 2008, he partnered Bruno Senna in GP2, finishing tenth and winning one race.
Despite links to Force India, Karun joined F1 in 2010 with Hispania where he had a rocky season despite being their best driver. Though the worst qualifier, he finished best of all HRT drivers and also ahead of both Virgin drivers thanks to early 14th-place finishes though he only drove in 10 races. After the British Grand Prix he didn’t race again for Hispania, but sometimes took part in the BBC’s practice commentaries with Anthony Davidson and others. He’s now rumoured to be moving to Lotus to become a test driver for them in 2011. His good performance last season suggests his F1 career is far from over.