The Curious Case of Jenson Button

With his recent run of poor performances – none of which are his fault we should point out – Jenson Button has become a focus of media attention this week, as Formula One seeks to find something to talk about whilst the lack of a German GP is felt.

Questions are being asked as to the contract that Button has with McLaren and are focussing on recent comments by Ron Dennis, made at the British Grand Prix. To summarise, Ron was quoted as saying that Jenson has a two-yer deal with McLaren and at the moment, the squad for 2016 is not something that they are looking at right now – they have bigger fish to fry.

Both of these statements are true. Right now, McLaren are second last in the championship. They have no title sponsor and things keep going from bad, to worse as they struggle to meld the Japanese cultured Honda with Woking designed McLaren. So we can certainly forgive them if they are pointing their impressive team towards the task at hand. And let’s face it, McLaren certainly aren’t lacking in the ‘stand-by talent’ department with two world champions on their books, as well as Magnussen and Van Doorne. McLaren can afford to wait to make their decision – just think of how they made us wait to finally announce their 2015 driver line up!

Jenson Button has a contract with McLaren. That much is true. But it is what is known as a ‘One plus One’. What that means is that right now, Jenson is a driver for the team and his contract is secure for 2015. However, come 2016 – it is a while different story. How can this be? Let me explain…

The ‘One plus One’ is a clever way of signing a driver to a two-year deal, without having to actually commit to the second year if they turn out to be rubbish, not what you had in mind or keep bending your precious race car, week in, week out. The first year is the contractual year and the second is an option on services, with the current employer (the race team – in this case McLaren) having ‘first dibs’ on you if they want to keep you. If they don’t, then your drive for that particular team will be over quicker than you can say Yuji Ide.

So as the media speculate as to whether Jenson will continue in 2016 with McLaren or not, let’s remember that JB has been around a very long time. He knows how the game works and knows that the ride isn’t over until the merry-go-round finally stops. After starting with Williams in 2000, he’s driven for Benneton, Renault, BAR, Honda, Brawn and now McLaren. One could argue that a few of those drives were actually for the same team, but at each change, he’s had to fight for his seat and prove his worth. JB is nothing if not a fighter and he proven his worth time and time again.

But right now, one has to question the motivation to continue. He’s having a rotten time of it all at the moment with retirement after retirement and after being punted off by Alonso at his home race, it must have felt like an ‘are you kidding me’ moment. There was an image a couple of races ago, captured as Button left the garage. He look absolutely crestfallen and like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. It’s a difficult position for him – and Alonso for that matter – to be pootling around the back, clinging on to the midfield and wondering how many laps you’ll be able to complete before stopping on track – or being called in to retire.

Jenson has had a wonderful career to date. He’s experienced the highs and lows – some more dramatic than others – and claimed the World Drivers Championship in 2009. He joined one of the most famous names in motorsport in 2010 and relished every victory along the way. He’s competed in triathlons, set up his own trust and even managed to marry a lingerie model. Like I say, it hasn’t been all bad!

So as the media speculate and wonder what Jenson will do for 2016, I have my own theory.

Retirement. Of course, I would love to be proved wrong and have Jenson out on track in 2016 but as things stand now, I wouldn’t blame him one iota if he decided to hang up the helmet and head off to do some other things. He’s been offered race drives by Mark Webber in the Le Mans series and there is no doubt that race teams of all persuasions would make contact. He once drove a V8 Supercar around the Mount Panorama Circuit and said he’d love to do a season in the Australian series. Could this be his chance?

No matter what Jenson decides to do for 2016, there is one thing that no one will ever take away from him.

He’s a World Champion. Pure and simple.


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