Sport : F1

Jenson Button

6th March 2014, 03:54pm

From fresh-faced novice in 2000 to one of F1's elder statesman, Jenson Button will start 2014 as the most experienced driver on the grid - but still eager to prove that there is plenty of life in his F1 career ahead of McLaren's imminent reunion with Honda.

Having seen off the threat of Sergio Perez in what transpired as the Mexican's one-and-only season at McLaren, Button will be partnered in 2014 by the fledgling talent of Kevin Magnussen.

As such, Button will continue to hold the unofficial status of team leader over the youngster - a far cry from the winter of 2009 when, just a couple of weeks after becoming World Champion with Brawn, Jenson opted to "enter the lion's den" by joining a McLaren outfit regarded as being 'Lewis Hamilton's team'.

Instead, three years later, Button emerged from his head-to-head battle against Hamilton largely unscathed and with his reputation enhanced after outscoring his younger compatriot by 15 points across their 58 races together.

34 in January and in the sport since the start of the century, Button is now the most experienced F1 driver in terms of starts - underlining quite how far the boy from Frome has come since his debut year as a 20-year-old with Williams.

Inexperienced he may have been but his talent was obvious from the start and Button claimed his first World Championship point in Brazil before going on to finish eighth in the 2000 Drivers' Championship with 12 points.

Despite a strong debut season, Button was dropped by Williams in favour of Juan Pablo Montoya. He switched to Benetton for the next two years but it was a disappointing spell, with some critics claiming he was too keen on the trappings of being an F1 driver and that his focus on the day job had diminished.

At the end of 2002 Button switched to BAR and it was a move that proved to be the making of the young Englishman. Paired with Jacques Villeneuve, he more than matched his World Champion team-mate but had to wait until 2004 before breaking his podium duck.

Contractual disputes marred 2005 before Button signed a long-term deal with Honda Racing (the Japanese manufacturer having bought out the team) and the Briton claimed both his and their breakthrough victory in Hungary the following year.

The win proved an isolated success as 2007 led Button to describe that year's Honda as "a complete dog". The appointment of Ross Brawn as Team Principal failed to spark great improvement the following year either, with the Briton finishing the season in 18th place in the drivers' standings.

That all changed spectacularly in 2009 when Brawn bought the team following Honda's withdrawal and produced a car - double diffuser and all - capable of challenging for the title. It proved a fairy-tale year.

A flying start to the season saw Button win five out of six races and although Brawn's Red Bull rivals chased hard, the Briton produced an exceptional drive at the Brazilian GP, coming from 14th on the grid to finish fourth and becoming World Champion.

To the surprise of many, Button promptly left his long-time Brackley home in favour of McLaren and a mouth-watering all-British partnership with Hamilton. Two early-season wins aside, he largely played second fiddle to Lewis for much of 2010 but in 2011 convinced the doubters that he was more than a force to be reckoned with.

Sebastian Vettel utterly dominated the campaign but it was Button who invariably ran him closest as the season progressed, none more so than in what he described "best win of my career" in Canada, where Button somehow managed to overcome chaos in the rain and four visits to the pits to win.

On the eve of the Japanese GP, McLaren confirmed that he had signed a new "multi-year contract" and he celebrated by returning to the top step of the podium at Suzuka. Although the title was already gone, Button still had two challenges left for the rest of the season: to finish second in the drivers' standings and become the first team-mate to beat Hamilton over a season. He succeeded on both counts.

The start of 2012 appeared set to offer even greater rewards after McLaren came out with the fastest car and Button beat Hamilton in the Melbourne season-opener. But, strangely, his title challenge never really took off due to an alarming slump in form as he was sent into a tailspin by set-up and tyre issues.

To his credit, Button rediscovered his form after the summer break with a dominant win at Spa and then ended the year with victory in Brazil.

In 2013, however, there was to be no recovery, with neither Button nor the struggling Perez able to summon any sort of frontrunning pace from the uncompetitive MP4-28.

Having lost his father John, Jenson's biggest fan and the guiding force behind his rise to the top of the motorsport tree, during the off-season, Button will be aiming to ensure his performances serve as a fitting tribute in 2014.

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