24 drivers in 24 days – four

#4 – Jenson Button There are those who say that this British driver’s 2009 World Championship win came more from luck than ability. Certainly the Brawn was much better than the other cars that year. However, Button won the championship with a race in hand at Brazil, after the Brawn car had stopped shining quite so much. In all races that season he finished in the points except for in Belgium where he retired. Nine of those 18 were podiums. And though the Red Bulls had a few wins at the end of the season, not even Sebastian Vettel could quite catch up with Jenson.
While he became champion of the 1998 British Formula Ford championship, none of his opponents were future F1 drivers. So let’s look instead at his third-place British Formula Three season in 1999. His opponents included Takuma Sato, Christijan Albers, Giorgio Pantano, Tiago Monteiro, Alex Yoong and Narain Karthikeyan. Okay, so none of them lastest very long in F1, but Jenson didn’t win as many races as you might expect: only three (and Narain won two, including his favourite track Brands Hatch). But to get a good result you need to keep getting in the points, and Jenson did this in every race except for two (points went down to 10th place, but the two classes were counted differently), and in the two races where he didn’t finish in the points, he retired. He finished the season with three wins, seven podiums, three pole positions and three fastest laps. He had 168 points overall, from a system fairly similar to the current F1 version.
After that he went to Williams before moving to Benneton, which became Renault, and then into Honda where he managed a third-place championship finish in 2004. Results slumped after that, but hard work from Honda in 2008 on their 2009 car, which was bought by Ross Brawn, was a major success and gave him his victory. Last season, with McLaren, he finished fifth. Jenson’s ability is not just luck, and although you need a good car to win, you can’t win in a good car if you’re a bad driver. Much more to come from Jenson in 2011, I think.

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