Friday, April 15, 2011

Jenson Button

Jenson Alexander Lyons Button MBE (born 19 January 1980) is a British Formula One driver currently signed to McLaren. He was the 2009 World Drivers' Champion. Button began karting at the age of eight and achieved early success, before progressing to car racing in the British Formula Ford Championship and the British Formula Three Championship. He first drove in Formula One with the Williams team for the 2000 season. The following year he switched to Benetton, which in 2002 became Renault F1, and then for the 2003 season he moved to BAR. They were subsequently renamed Honda for the 2006 season, during which Button won his first Grand Prix in Hungary, after 113 races. Following the withdrawal of Honda from the sport in December 2008, he was left without a drive for the 2009 season, until Ross Brawn led a management buyout of the team in February 2009, and Button suddenly found himself in a highly competitive, Mercedes-engined car. He went on to win a record-equalling six of the first seven races of the 2009 season, and secured the 2009 World Drivers' Championship at the Brazilian Grand Prix, having led on points all season; his success also helped Brawn GP to secure the World Constructors' Championship. For 2010, he moved to McLaren, partnering fellow British racer and former world champion Lewis Hamilton. Button is currently Britain's highest Formula One point-scorer, with 567, due in part to the new scoring system which allocates more than double the number of points that were allocated in the past. Button was born on 19 January 1980 in Frome, Somerset and brought up in nearby Vobster. He was named after his father's friend Erling Jensen, changing the "e" to an "o" to differentiate it from Jensen Motors. He was educated at Vallis First School, Selwood Middle School and Frome Community College. He is the fourth child of South African-born Simone Lyons and former Rallycross driver John Button, who was well-known in the UK during the 1970s for his so-called Colorado Beetle Volkswagen. After his parents divorced when he was seven, he and his three elder sisters were brought up by their mother in Frome. He failed his first driving test for getting too close to a parked vehicle.

Button began karting at the age of eight, after his father bought him his first kart, and made an extraordinarily successful start. In 1989, aged nine, he came first in the British Super Prix. He won all 34 races of the 1991 British Cadet Kart Championship, along with the title. Further successes followed, including three triumphs in the British Open Kart Championship. In 1997, won the Ayrton Senna Memorial Cup, and also became the youngest driver ever to win the European Super A Championship. Aged 18, Button moved into car racing, winning the British Formula Ford Championship with Haywood Racing; he also triumphed in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. At the end of 1998, he won the annual McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award. His prize included a test in a McLaren Formula One car, which he received at the end of the following year Button entered the British Formula Three Championship in 1999, with the Promatecme team. He won three times —at Thruxton, Pembrey and Silverstone—and finished the season as the top rookie driver, and third overall. He finished fifth and second respectively in the Marlboro Masters and Macau Grand Prix, losing out by 0.035 seconds to winner Darren Manning in the latter. At the end of 1999, Button had his McLaren test prize at Silverstone, and also tested for the Prost team. A vacant race seat became available at the Williams team, following the departure of Alex Zanardi, and team boss Frank Williams arranged a 'shoot-out' test between Button and Formula 3000 racer Bruno Junqueira, with Button securing the drive. This made him Britain's youngest ever Formula One driver. Button was heavily hyped before his first race: former driver Gerhard Berger described him as a "phenomenon"; the head of his karting team, Paul Lemmens, compared him to Ayrton Senna; and Williams' technical director Patrick Head said he was "remarkably mature and definitely a star of the future". However some had misgivings about his lack of experience and ability to cope with the pressures of Formula One. Following the buy-out of Brawn by Mercedes, Button announced on 18 November 2009 that he would be leaving the team to move to McLaren for the 2010 season. He signed a three-year deal for a reported £6 million per season to drive alongside former world champion Lewis Hamilton. Button said he moved because he wanted the motivation and challenge from competing head-to-head with Hamilton, and that Brawn GP had offered him more money. A number of people, including former Formula One drivers John Watson, Jackie Stewart and Eddie Irvine, believed the move was a mistake, and that Button would struggle to compete with Hamilton at McLaren. After a seventh place finish in the opening round in Bahrain, Button won the second race in Australia from fourth on the grid. Button was the first to come in for slick tyres on a damp but drying track, which lifted him to second place after the other drivers had pitted. He inherited the lead when Vettel retired with brake problems and maintained his lead to the end without changing his tyres again. His victory made him the thirteenth driver in Formula One history to have won Grands Prix for at least three different constructors. Following an eighth place finish in Malaysia, Button went on to win his second race of the season from fifth on the grid in China, by staying on slick tyres while most of the other drivers pitted for intermediates, he was promoted to second place. However, the rain did not come, and the other drivers had to pit again for dry tyres. Subsequently, he went on to lead the Drivers' Championship, with McLaren leading the Constructors' Championship. In Spain he was leapfrogged by Michael Schumacher and finished a frustrated fifth, before retiring in Monaco due to an overheating engine on lap three. As a result, Button lost his lead in the Championship, dropping to fourth behind both Red Bull drivers and Alonso. Button then finished second in Turkey after Red Bull teammates Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, who were leading the race, collided with each other. His own teammate Hamilton took the win, after the two of them briefly touched after a few corners of wheel-to-wheel racing. This promoted Button to second overall in the Championship, just behind Webber. In Canada he followed up this result and remained second in the Championship, 3 points behind his teammate Hamilton. At the European Grand Prix in Valencia, Button finished 3rd and maintained 2nd place in the title race.

Button is known for having a very smooth driving style; journalist Mark Hughes wrote in 2009, "Button has a fantastic feel for how much momentum can be taken into a corner and this allows him to be minimal in his inputs—his steering and throttle movements in particular tend to be graceful and beautifully co-ordinated." This allows him to perform well in tricky conditions, such as his maiden win in the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix. Many believe using his smooth style he can conserve his tyres better during race conditions than other drivers. However, his smooth style can also mean he struggles to generate the necessary tyre temperature on cool days or undemanding tracks. Coupled with his driving style, Button has demonstrated intelligent race decisions such as his pit stop strategy during the 2010 Australian Grand Prix. Jackie Stewart drew similarities with the driving style and racecraft of Alain Prost. In an interview in 2003, Button said about Prost: "His way of driving was so smooth. He is the person I have modelled myself on". However, he contradicted himself in 2009, when he said, "I've never tried to model myself on anyone.I don't think many people do when they are pursuing their career." Parallels have also been made with the McLaren partnership and rivalry to 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton to the Prost-Senna rivalry of the 1980s, though the latter clearly had a more tempestuous relationship. Like many Formula One drivers, Button resided in the principality of Monaco but he has since moved to Guernsey. He said that it was the great training possibilities that took him away from the tax haven. He also has properties in the United Kingdom and Bahrain. His hobbies include mountain biking, competing in triathlons and body boarding, and his car collection includes a Nissan GT-R, a 1956 VW Campervan, a Honda S600 and a Mercedes C63 AMG. He previously owned a blue on black Bugatti Veyron. He was engaged to the actress and singer Louise Griffiths before ending their five year relationship in May 2005. Button has two tattoos: a black coat button on his right forearm; and Japanese kanji-characters on his ankle which say "一番" (Ichi ban, "Number One" in Japanese), this was done before he won the world title.

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