Voice of the #F1 Fans: Jenson Button: ‘Fake it ‘till you make it’

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Still I Surprise

The phrase that titles this article made its way into our language, with practical application, in the late 20th century. It was a phrase believed to be born from Aristotle’s notion that acting virtuous will, over time, make one virtuous. To some extent or another we all on some level understand what this phrase means. The concept and variations of the phrase has since gained popularity in various contexts, none more so than its use to battle depression, substance and alcohol addiction or low self-esteem. It is used in the main, to battle any negative self-fulfilling prophecies and downward spirals born of the above mentioned aliments. Essentially the thought process is that if one acts happy, or walks the path of being sober and not abusing substances, or comes across as overtly confident, then indeed that will in time breed success and thus result in one actually becoming what they are acting, as the eventual real success replaces the act. Get it? Got It? Good.

Jenson Button McLarenAnd with that we leave the world of pseudo-psychology, etymology and “(insert dependency here) anon” meeting rhetoric and we move to a man from Frome in the United Kingdom. I’d like to forewarn Jenson Button fans that this isn’t going to be an aggrandizement of Button. He self-aggrandizes well enough I think. In short, this writer subscribes to the view that the man is not quite ‘Ichiban’ amongst his peers, or indeed even close to it, or ever has been. Possibly the greatest pretender to actually become the act, the greatest pretender to become a Formula One World Drivers Champion, Jenson Button is the perfect example of ‘fake it ‘till you make it’. Of acting like a superstar, acting like a champion, acting like a desired F1 driver and then enjoying the majority of his career as such with reality replacing the act… But is the illusion over? Did the substance in the end replace the act?

Let’s firstly go to the end. In the end, Jenson Button did become a Formula One World Drivers Champion. However in my view the wool is now more or less pulled from the collective eyes of the F1 community, be that the paddock, the specialist media or the fans. Even the specialist media that sits in Camp Button often start an analysis of Jenson with, “yes, he’s not the quickest but…”. Great champions, or even good deserving champions, don’t have their analyses started in such an apologetic way, do they? Those in the unofficial “lucky WDC list” do. What is the “lucky WDC list” I hear you say? Continue reading…

jenson_button WilliamsDid Button really convince the world he was a truly competitive champion? Or will he be remembered as one of the lucky few that were in the exact right place, at the exact right time, with the exact right ageing or average team mate, enjoying a one-off car innovation that put him beyond reach of any outside rival. Well to answer that I acknowledge that it was quite a close fight in perception where Button is concerned. Especially as 2011 was maybe his greatest chance to entirely pull the wool over the eyes of anyone remaining who held the suspicion that the ratio of luck to talent was tilted too far toward luck. Perhaps 2011 was his greatest year, reputationally speaking, than even 2009 – the year he became a world champion with the double-decker enhanced Brawn Mercedes. He almost managed, with his savvy team after 2011, to convince the world that, ‘see, I didn’t just have a fluky WDC chance, I am one of the very best drivers, I even beat Lewis overall’. This writer never bought it then, though it was convincing enough.

But I should clarify one point here. It’s not about the fact he is ‘only’ a one-timer as many of the F1 champions are, and we don’t question all their achievements in Formula One. Alan Jones, Nigel Mansell, Jody Scheckter, Kimi Raikkonen, James Hunt, John Surtees and even Keke Rosberg to name but a few great champions of our sport that are one-timers. None of these drivers are really “universally” considered to have lucked into their championships. They have faced off against many difficult teams mates, and won many difficult GP’s in good and, critically, not so good cars, and more or less are considered to deserve what they have. In some cases, it is believed that some may deserve even more, though I do hate that word “deserve”. But the flip side to some “deserving” more, is that by definition some “deserve” less. And now to the list…

One ponders names like, Mario Andretti, Jacques Villeneuve, Phil Hill (not Damon’s father Graham) Jenson Button and to a far, far lesser extent Damon Hill and it’s generally – “generally” being the key word – accepted that those titles were won under quite fortuitous circumstances across the board. One factor to qualifying for this Lucky List, on all occasions, is the team mates that were sharing the same car were not considered great or even good. Perhaps, quick and/or solid, but not great internal challenges.

Team Mates to Lucky List WDC’s:

1961: Phil Hill – Richie Ginther & Wolfgang von Trips (Ferrari)

1978: Mario Andretti – Ronnie Peterson (Lotus)

1996: Damon Hill – Jacques Villeneuve (rookie and very nearly nicked the title anyway) (Williams-Renault)

1997: Jacques Villeneuve – Heinz Harald Frentzen (Williams-Renault)

2009: Jenson Button – Rubens Barrichello (Ageing and on the wane. Never balls out quick) (Brawn-Mercedes)

In combination with the above parameter, to qualify for the Lucky list, in all circumstances their cars were considered either the very best of the year, or the very best for a big part of the year and thereafter remained at least equal best. There is no shame in using the best car to win a title, Senna, Schumacher, Fangio, Clark and Prost all did it. But in this list, outside of their average team mates above, there was little genuine outside challenge and yet strangely in some cases they still almost threw away their respective title chances.

Let’s analyze this second parameter to qualify for the Lucky List in the form of the WDC runner-up and “outside team mate rival challenges” of those same drivers.

Runner Up’s and/or Closest non-team mate Rivals:

1961 – Phill Hill, RUN UP: Wolfgang von Trips (team mate leading title until fatal accident and Phil Hill final race win)

1978 – Mario Andretti, RUN UP: Ronnie Peterson (contracted number two and killed at Monza)

1996 – Damon Hill, RUN UP: Jacques Villeneuve (rookie team mate with Schumacher in 1st year with useless Ferrari)

1997 – Jacques Villeneuve, RUN UP: Michael Schumacher (in a Ferrari that did not deserve to be leading into the final race)

2009 – Jenson Button, RUN UP: Sebastian Vettel (a near rookie in an emerging Red Bull. Even the Double Decker Diffuser early-to-mid season advantage was almost washed away, but for an extra round or two, Vettel may have been a 5 time WDC.)

Ok I think we are starting to get a sense of what qualifies for this Lucky List. Let’s now try to put some science behind it.

The Equation:

The unofficial mental equation I suppose might be, “vastly superior car quality” multiplied by “poor quality team mate” divided by “lack of outside team rival” to the power of“almost losing the title”  = “lucky one off WDC”.

jenson-button-brawn-gp-f1-2009I believe that to be true in all these cases I listed above. Despite my WDC Lucky List hypothesis being consistent with reasonably logical observation, and the above equation justifying the findings / results, a good analyst looks for further confirmation. Admittedly this is anecdotal however confirmation in these cases, beyond the equation, is that these drivers usually failed to dominate future team mates, and on occasion past teams mates. This factor is the final nail in the coffin of giving them credibility as one of the best champions in the sport in their day. In all analytics, it seems to be a series of planets aligning to give a lucky driver, in the right circumstances, perfection for just the right amount of time to become a “points champion”. And all these guys almost lost the title in the end anyway (to a lesser or greater extent), despite it being handed to them on a silver platter.

Back to Jenson Button:

As I said above, 2011 was potentially the year that Jenson Button could have avoided this list. Though it’s clear now, in retrospect, that Hamilton was terrible in 2011. Hamilton’s heart-on-the-sleeve approach in bad times, coupled with very poor psychology management permeated every application of the brake and every turn of the wheel he made that year. His performances and results were reflective of a wasted year for Hamilton and ultimately a big stain in the final analysis of the “pioneer’s” career. That being said, and on a side note, it makes me wonder how good the McLaren Mercedes of 2011 really was considering Button came Runner Up, even beating Webber in the sister Red Bull and Alonso in the Ferrari. Had Hamilton been stable that year, perhaps he’d have caused Vettel a bit more trouble in what was a Red Bull Renault / Sebastian Vettel white wash. And therein lay the issue of Hamilton, can he really lay claim to being one of the greatest with all the wasted opportunities? Could 2011 have realistically been a WDC opportunity for McLaren given 1) what Jenson Button did that year, and 2) the usual superiority Hamilton had on Button in 2010 and 2012? We won’t know, but I suspect 2011 needs to be added to the growing list of Hamilton’s wasted opportunities that now include, in my opinion, 2007, 2010, 2012 and to this stage 2014 (given he is 2nd in the WDC in the best car).

So Jenson now joins the unspoken, but very apparent, list of lucky WDC’s. Yes they were all fast drivers to be sure.  World class drivers, no doubt. They are worthy F1 race winner at times, on their day.  But the champions of their day? Probably not. The great Ayrton Senna once intimated that at the end of a year sometimes there is a champion, sometimes just a driver who collected the most points. I think the latter is true of these drivers and none more so than Jenson Button himself.

The flip side:

With all that analysis, research and formulation of the unofficial WDC lucky list equation, one might think the article is over. You still don’t know SiS. Beyond liking the sound of my own voice, I tend to see two sides of the coin.

In some ways it’s admirable that Jenson and the other nominated drivers on this list achieved what they have. There would be some that say, ‘well, that was their one chance and they took it’. And indeed they did. Like Rosberg Jnr. is doing now, thought in my opinion if Rosberg Jnr. wins, he won’t join this list as he had to beat Hamilton for the title. The equation would spit him off qualifying for the list.

In Jenson’s case, he has double digit wins, a world title, and a year where he even beat one of the most highly rated drivers of our time, Lewis Hamilton, which is the only time, to date, Lewis lost to any team mate on points over a season (Maybe this year will be his second?) . He has started in over 250 grand prix and counting, a very commendable longevity, and considering the man who very nearly was out of F1 at the end of 2008 with only one lucky win in the rain in Hungary in 2006, he kept “acting” the part. He kept faking it, till he made it, and indeed he did make it. In a way.

In the end, despite all the analysis showing him on this unofficial WDC lucky list, it counts for naught in that he IS a world champion. Despite the suspicions that a good proportion of his success comes from being politically savvy, perhaps in greater quantities than in pure driving talent, a big portion also must have come from plugging away, hard graft, fighting and patience. Fighting for over a decade and sheer will are admirable too. That’s the sort of thing a parent gives a child, so hats off to Button Snr. And in the end, even Fernando Alonso says he’d prefer titles to respect. From that view, who would you rather be. Stirling Moss or Jenson Button? I’d choose Button, even though the knowledgeable fans know Moss has more talent in one finger than Jenson could dream of.

It is in this way that Jenson Button being on the lucky list, and indeed leading it in my opinion, increases my respect for the man, who wasted not a drop of his talent, yet at the same time understanding that he is a title winner by virtue of an end of year points total and not a champion driver of his day.

In closing, I’d like to hear your opinions in the comments as to the driver that best resembles the luckiest world champion in F1 history for you. For me, it’s Jenson Button. I suspect for most of you it is too, and if not, it will be one of the ones I mentioned above probably. If not, I am all ears.

jenson-button-brawn-gp-f1-2009-4

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109 responses to “Voice of the #F1 Fans: Jenson Button: ‘Fake it ‘till you make it’

  1. Hamilton was terrible in 2011? People say it all the time but can they back it up? Some incidents and crashes but which were actually his fault? Singapore and Japan. His speed? Perfectly fine, he was the first GP-winner not called Vettel. He had the only non-RBR pole of the season so whats the fuss? His head might have been in a jam but it didnt make that much of a difference on the track (apart from some over aggressiveness).

    Anyway, Button is one of the lesser world champions but he is still worthy to me. What does it matter anyway? In the perfect world the best driver would win every year. Take away Buttons title and this article would have been about Damon Hill or Villeneuve. Take their titles away and this article would have been about Hakkinen, Raikkonen and so on.

    Im not sure but I believe Button was as good as he was in 2011 because of the tyres. Buttons main nemesis in his career has been qualifying. Button has a smooth driving style which is good for tyre preservation but will not get alot of heat in the tyres. The soft tyre was used alot in 2011 which is easy to heat up which would have improved his qualifying performances.

    • @Alex

      “Hamilton was terrible in 2011?”

      Yes, relative to his standards and his domination of team mates over his career.

      “People say it all the time but can they back it up?”

      Yes. But it’s another article…. Button did trounce Lewis in mid and late 2011 in particular. Lewis spoke of this and admited it too. But this isn’t about Lewis, for a change. It’s about Jenson in that 2011 year almost pulling the wool over our eyes. It was his best “reputational” year. His star rise that year, maybe more than 2009.

      “Anyway, Button is one of the lesser world champions but he is still worthy to me.”

      Good. And I agree. Re: Flip Side – the last section of the article.

      “What does it matter anyway?”

      It doesn’t. None of this matters. Ponder that concept too much and you will be saying hi to Kurt Cobain.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Phew. There again, I wonder what Vettel or Rosberg would be like in today’s Mclaren? Pretty mediocre I would think. If Jenson has had luck it’s been bad luck. Certainly being a Mclaren driver over the past couple of years isn’t something most ambitious drivers would have aspired to and yet Jenson stuck with them and has been an impeccable team player.

    He is of course also one of the smoothest and most professional drivers around and in terms of his behaviour, a first class ambassador for the sport. Of all the current F1 driving set he’s the one I’d be happiest to have dinner with or have as a neighbour.

    Who is the luckiest driver in F1? Without a doubt it’s Vettel.

    • @Dick Winchester

      “Of all the current F1 driving set he’s the one I’d be happiest to have dinner with or have as a neighbour.”

      I agree. I think my Flip Side final section touches on that. In a way, I admire him as a man.

    • “Who is the luckiest driver in F1? Without a doubt it’s Vettel.”

      I disagree. Luck wins you one titel. Not four. It’s just a fact that vettel was the best for that particular driving style. Where as button won it because the car was just the best out there. By miles. Vettel did have to fight for at least one of his titels much harder than button ever had.

      • Totally agree with you. I do wonder what would have happened had we seen Alonso or Hamilton in that Red Bull.

        You can’t blame Vettel for having an awesome car though!

        • Like I say in a comment lower, none of Vettel’s championship years qualify for this list.

          A driver can’t be blamed for having a superior car… Only if that car is not utilised. Which is why we don’t really call into question Fangio, Schumacher, Senna, Clark at the pub during these sorts of discussions. All if who had superior cars for many of their titles.

        • Well, then alonso or hamilton would be champion. Because they are both excellent drivers. But mark webber in the same car couldn’t do it. Neither would massa…

    • He is of course also one of the smoothest and most professional drivers around…

      I think they’re all pretty “professional,” even Max (though can’t say for sure about Caterham drivers, since professionals in a “professional” team aren’t supposed to have their seats sold out from under them [at least not in this modern era]!). Even Kimi is professional.

      Trying to think of an example of a driver making dumb choices off the track and in his lifestyle that inhibited his performance such that he merited being slammed as unprofessional…anyone? First name that comes to mind?

    • Thanks Carlo… And I’ll take this opportunity to thank you for editing and John for arranging its publication. Also thanks to TJ13 and the team for the opportunity to write once again.

      Next stop in my analyses of the competing WDC’s… Kimi Raikkonen.

  3. I agree with most of the article though cannot agree completely with the comments about Damon Hill and Lewis Hamilton.

    Hill was very unlucky not to have won the championship in 1994. That would have been a remarkable achievement, considering the death of his teammate Senna earlier in the same year. Plus Hill was only in his 2nd real year in F1. Frank Williams is on record as saying one of his few regrets is not keeping Hill for 1997, which would have given him a chance at another title.

    Hamilton’s title failures must be put down to as much McLaren failures as his, including 2011. If the team had been on the ball from 2007 onwards, there is a good chance Hamilton would have won a few more championships.

    On that basis so would Alonso and the Red Bull / Vettel dominance of the last 4 years would have happened. But I think McLaren must take the blame for most of Hamilton’s missing championships, not him. Whereas Ferrari and Red Bull messed up single races that lost Alonso and Webber a championship, McLaren messed up many times in more than one season.

    As for Stirling Moss, I think the legend that he is shows that you do not have to be a World Champion to be the best. After all, everybody knows Stirling Moss, there are quite a few World Champions whose names are not so easily remembered.

    • @ David Sherwood

      “…and to a far, far lesser extent Damon Hill” – from the article

      In part, I agree with your Damon Hill sentiments. I do have a solid respect for Damon’s career. I concur that had Frank kept Damon Hill in 1997, Schumacher would not have had the opportunity at Jerez.

      That being said, his 1996 title year qualifies based on the above parameters. I suppose the fact that Frank did indeed let him go also means, at the time, Frank agreed too. It’s only in retrospect that he claims what he claims, which I think is driven by an acknowledgment that Jacques was even luckier a title winnerwith Williams, almost having lost a title to a rival altogether.

      I also agree that McLaren should carry an equal share of the weight for Hamilton’s missed title years. But that doesn’t absolve Hamilton losing the plot in 2011.

    • Also, one has to be in a total denial to believe that Schumacher wasn’t driving a cheater car in the first few races of 1994. Considering the psychological and legal impact of Senna’s death, Hill has done pretty well. I’d love you see how the championship would have turned out without Benetton’s launch control system and the removed filter-valve in the refueling hose.

    • Considering how lowly he is rated by many, Hills statistics are pretty impressive.
      Had Williams retained him and he had won a second title, would he have then been reckoned the luckiest two time winner ?

      • @Nigel

        Would entirely depend on how well he won his second title depending on a subjective assesement of his car quality, his intra team challenge and any external rival.

    • @Verstappen

      The final component, “almost losing it”… Check the equation. Which is also why no one would think Senna in 1990 didn’t deserve it either. It’s just something to put a bit if logic or science around a phenomena in Motorsport that we all intrinsically understand about our champs. Sometimes a champion emerges, sometimes a pts winner is crowned. But as I say in the final summary, in the end a title is a title.

  4. Like I said before, I think Jenson and Vettel are v similar, both had the best car, but not to the margines people claim, also thier team mates were slightly past thier best, the only difference was Button had this for 4-5 months, and Vettel had his for 4-5 years. Had thier positions been reversed….. Also you might want to read what Brawn said about Buttons speed once he’d left. And you don’t win that many wet races without a hint of above average ability, and do you know how force India work out what to do in the wet, with all thier stratagists… They’ve gone on record, and just said they’re copy whatever Button does, as more often than not he gets it right. Frank Williams said you judge a driver by his highs, as this is a true indication of his ability, and Button certainly has had a few highs.

    Buttons biggest weakness is inability to deal with an unstable rear end (sound like a 4 time wdc we might know?). Give him a car witha stable rear and he’s blindingly quick, hence the WDC, and why Lewis struggled against him that year.

    Not to ,mention he’s covered off both Sergio and K-mag who is supposed to be the next big thing.

    Not bad for mr lucky.

    • @Jamie Norman

      Interesting comment. Just picking up on the SV comment you made… the equation wouldn’t allow for any of Vettel’s title years to be on the lucky list.

      In 2010 and 2012, SV had significant outside rivals with Fernando and Lewis in often quick and race winning cars those years. In 2011 and 2013 he smashed the opposition, and did not nearly lose the title, utilising fully his significant car advantage, which I already said many greats did too.

      Also many rate Webber highly in the 2010 year in particular, so he had, at least in that year, an internal battle. None of his years, IMHO, fit the equation.

      Button in 2009 fits the equation, as explained above.

      • Additionally, I should point out, and I did say in the article, no drivers on this list are bad drivers. They were / are all world class drivers. On their day, very worthy GP winners. Champions of their day? Not really. Fortuitous “pts title winners” by virtue of many planets aligning? Probably, yes.

        • Additionally, I should point out, and I did say in the article, no drivers on this list are bad drivers…

          This is true, and you did, in “The flip side”, acknowledge all of Button’s success and awesomeness. lol

      • I would like to point out, though, that the lack of Button’s further progress in the Brawn was more down to a lack of cash and development in the second half of the year, whereas for Vettel’s title winning years he was in the team with the biggest budget and the benefit of many technical decisions in their favour.

        • @Dobzizzle

          I’d like to dispel that myth, and further speak to why Button and his 2009 year is on the list.

          His lack of late season progress, and near losing the title, is not down to Brawn not developing. He dropped the ball and got the yipps. He has even spoken to this mindset too in a few articles. But aside from that, consider the following.
          —-
          Pts gained in final 7 races of 17 rounds:

          Vettel – 37pts (2wins)
          Barrichello – 33pts (2wins)
          Button – 25pts
          Webber – 18pts (1win)

          Brawn – 58 pts (2wins)
          Red Bull – 55 pts (3wins)
          —-
          Brawn scored more points in the back portion of the year. Barrichello led the charge. That gap between Jenson and Rubens is on the old pts system, and is therefore bigger than it looks.

          Rubens also got pole in Brazil, so the car was plenty quick at seasons end. An aged Rubens wasn’t exactly considered super quick either, certainly not at that stage of his career.

          The evidence of Barrichello’s performance in the final 7 races suggests there was little wrong with the Brawn. It suggests Button dropped the ball, and this satisfies the final parameter of the equation “almost lost the title”.

          The season was 17 races long, short by today’s standards. A round or two more and… well, you can guess.

      • Hmm, I’m of the view that Vettel, had he been more consistent in 2009 (Vettel circa 2013 instead of 2009), would’ve won the title. Vettel made a whole host of mistakes in 2009 which cost him in the final reckoning. Plus the Brawns were only markedly superior for the first half of the year, and even then there were some circuits where they were second best. Alonso in a Red Bull that year likely would’ve beaten Button.

        So Button had an outside rival, and the car wasn’t “vastly” superior, even in the first half of the season. His drive to win it in Brazil was a great drive, a champion’s drive.

        Definitely Button benefitted from the 2009 reg’s shakeup, and the DDD, and all of that. But as others have said, he got 4-5 months benefit, while Vettel/RBR’s run was much longer in that regulations era.

        SiS, what’s your take on Will Power? He just won his first IndyCar title last night, which I think he was long overdue for. This year though, he’s had a lot of contact, but benefitted from most of them (opposite to previous years). I don’t think this was his best year in IndyCar, but it’s the year he wins. Motorsport is like that.

        • True. But take in to recognition that alonso had a lot more years experience at that point than vettel. The times that a 2 year old (in f1 terms) takes a title, not in the best car out there, aren’t that big. Cuz all though the brawn was only the best for half a season, the brawn was the best for half a season. If you know what i mean.

    • RedBull wasn’t that far ahead, if at all, in 2010 or 2012. The title fight went on to the last race both of those seasons.

  5. Hi Snr Surprise
    Interesting article – and contentious, which will go down well here… 😉
    I can’t disagree with any of your findings or comments, but I’d maybe add more to your list…
    A few months ago another commenter asked whether, if Button had not won in 2009, whether he would have even figured on my list of ’20 NON-Champions’ – so I re-checked today, and reckon he would have come about 36th…!
    Of your others:
    Damon H, 5th; Phil H, 10th; Andretti, 15th; & Jacques, 26th…
    And, of the other 1-year Champs:
    Lewis, 2nd; Farina, 3rd; Nigel, 6th; Kimi, 7th; Hunt, 11th; Hawthorn, 12th; Rindt, 13th; Surtees, 19th; Jones, 20th…
    Of the others, outside my Top-20:
    Hulme, 29th; Jody, 30th; & Keke, 43rd…
    Of course you are considering the drivers’ championship year whereas my system takes the entire career. I think your approach will be more interesting, especially for the fanboyz… 😉

    • @BJF

      “…Button had not won in 2009, whether he would have even figured on my list of ’20 NON-Champions’ – so I re-checked today, and reckon he would have come about 36th…!”

      Sounds about right. Like I say in a comment above, as well as discussing JB, this article led me to just try to put some logic and science around a phenomena in Motorsport we all intrinsically feel about certain champs.

      I am familiar with your top-20 drivers to have not won a WDC. A really excellent series by the way. It’s interesting where you place the other drivers I mention when looking at their careers. Of the others you mention, some would qualify here too. But the article was long enough if you know what I mean. Plus mentioning all the obvious ones wouldn’t leave anyone to say, “Hey, what about him!!!”

      😀

    • No. The equation wouldn’t have qualified him.

      He didn’t have the best car for all, or even the majority, of the season. It was relatively equal between McLaren and Ferrari that year, and development advancement between the two teams was nip and tuck. Ferrari was quicker at some places then McLaren seemed more capable at others.

      Massa prior to the accident in 2009 was quick but erratic. And with the car development going his way and away from Raikkonen (another article) he was able to really start to produce some consistent racing based on that speed, which he showed often, but inconsistently over the years to that point.

      Additionally he did have a tough team mate who won the title the year before, keeping him honest. He did have a solid outside rival too in Lewis Hamilton.

      Lewis also does not qualify, based in similar parameters in 2008 applicable to his title.

  6. Interestingly, I now add Emerson Fittipaldi to the list, but I imagine he was just someone that set up the car for the race. This is going off the statistical data from Patrick O’Brien at GrandPrixRatings. e.g. Andretti had pace, but concentrated on America during the best parts of his career. Surtees had it too, but was always in a terrible car, like Moss for parts of his career.

    His interesting conclusion on 2009 is that the top cars were equal in the end, with RBR actually better overall from the Brawn lack of development, despite the early dominance. But, the top 4 drivers were still a 3/4 tenths off the top – Hamilton and Raikkonen creamed them in the second half of the season, once their cars were up to scratch.

    Vettel only got to maximum pace in 2011, which fits his starting to dominate, and 2009 simply came a year early for him (at age 21). But for little errors like hitting Kubica, lap 1 at Turkey etc. Vettel would have had a great chance at the last race for beating Jenson to the WDC. 2010-13 Vettel would have had no problem winning 2009.

    I agree on 2011 being Button’s best year for reputation – I think it’s also his peak for performance, 2010 and 2011, 0.2 off the very best. Not bad, considering his best days were probably his younger days – e.g. his records for youngest winner of European Formula A karting titles.

    Button, Alonso, Raikkonen, Davidson were the last of the top karters to move pretty much straight into F1, without the long junior career of Webber, which became more prominent over time, followed by Hamilton and shortened by Vettel. Max Verstappen is now a throwback to those former four, and he said he drives most like Alonso…

    It’s also noticeable how 2011 – Vettel, Button; 2012/13 – Vettel, Raikkonen, suited those liking a strong front end, while 2010 was Webber, Hamilton for most of the year, with Kubica at his peak. Alonso contended in all years.. while now we are back to ‘aggressive styles’ being fastest – Hamilton, Ricciardo, with Vettel, Raikkonen struggling..

  7. True Button came second in the championship in 2011, but where was he all season?
    It was true Hamilton had an off year in 2011, but in hindsight, 2011 was no different from 2012 and it showed his race strategy was really suffering.
    2011 was the beginning of the campaign to get Button ahead of Hamilton and get Hamilton out of the team.
    Hamilton while being ahead of Button was repeatedly being given the dumbest race strategies and more often than not, he was released into the part of Massa after his pit stops.
    Mclaren under Withmarsh by then had already began to aim for far lower standards which they were to carry into 2012 especially on Hamilton’s side of the garage.
    On paper it looks like Button was in contention for the championship, but he never was and only claimed second in the championship in the last few races.

    I would rate Button as slightly above average but nothing exceptional.
    He was blessed with having team heads that repeatedly sang his praise more than we ever saw him Deliver, from Richards, Fry to Withmarsh.
    They all seemed to be more of fans than employers making demands.
    This allowed Button to sometimes make outrageous claims about his car….”the car is not to my liking”…. Imagine Alonso or Hamilton saying that, they would be crucified.

    He has had too much backing and got spoiled.
    I can’t understand a driver who his supporters claim to be one of the best, yet they then go on to say, “if he has a car to his liking”.
    He isn’t expected to deliver much but when he does by some good fortune he is extolled as one of the greatest.
    And to me, the biggest dis service to Mclaren and F1 was him claiming he wanted to take on Hamilton to see who was better. That got the team to lose all focus and lost them championships, because personnel within the team quickly took sides and the result was 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
    Button won, but Mclaren lost

    • @John Mane

      John, I am patently aware JB was never in the 2011 championship, despite his runner up position. I claim that JB’a star (temporarily) rose in 2011 due to him shading Lewis. But as I also say, and despite the Team Button machine protesting otherwise at the time, it was less Button and more Hamilton on a downer for a multitude if reasons. Like I said, I never bought it and it was the last chance he had to keep the wool pulled over the eyes of his fans. That is also the basis in which I question if the McLaren of 2011 might have done better in a fully supported and fully focused Hamilton. Amazingly, 2011 still stands as the only year Lewis was beaten in the WDC standing by a team mate, and significantly so.

      “Button won, but Mclaren lost” – John Mane

      Sums it up really. In some ways, I am surprised Ron Dennis stood back that long.

  8. Some interesting digging in the archives, but it all reads like you have a bias against him – ‘pulling the wool over people’s eyes’ – what is he a spy??

    I wouldn’t call myself a JB fan, but I still think he’s far better than you give him credit for. Your ‘equation’ you keep referring to is meaningless – all the many teams he’s driven for will have given them plenty actual data to see how he was stacking up against his teammates. If Ross Brawn rated him then that says it all for me.

    • “If Ross Brawn rated him then that says it all for me.”

      Let me second that. I remember how tense was his departure to McLaren from Brawn’s team after his WDC, and how Brawn was unhappy with that.

      Jense is obviously an incredibly talented individual, much like many of the underrated drivers such as Massa, Webber, Barrichello, Coulthard, Irvine, etc., etc. All those who come into BJF’s top 50 are without doubt proven quantities, over long lasting careers. These guys, including Jense, are payed by the millions, and for good reasons: few others can do what they can..

        • Absolutely not. And I come with career-long stats as supporting evidence (courtesy of BJF):

          http://thejudge13.com/2014/04/09/the-top-20-gp-drivers-who-did-not-win-a-championship-2/

          Massa is right in the ballpark of Hill, Villeneuve, Coulthard, Webber, Barrichello, Button, Rosberg (Keke). Some are WDC, others aren’t.

          And let’s not forget that some of the one-time WDC have gotten there by “luck”, like Raikkonen or Hamilton. By sheer dumb “luck” we could have been talking today of Hamilton and Massa one-time WDC, and the overrated Raikkonen. We might even have had an Aussie one-time WDC, and a merely 3-time WDC Vettel. Or a 5-time WDC Vettel, and a highly overrated Button.

          The thing is that no one (!), and I mean not one single driver who wins a WDC (or comes to a whisper from winning it) gets there by sheer luck. They’re all there for very good reasons, including natural ability, hard work, dedication and steely focus, not to mention proper finances at the right moments. Massa easily gets the rights to this hall of fame..

        • Massa at his 2008 peak was only two tenths off the best… that’s better than Webber at his 2010 peak (3 tenths off). Massa is alongside Coulthard, Barrichello, Button and Rosberg as in ‘the second tier’. Top tier would be Raikkonen, Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel, with Ralf Schumacher, Montoya and Kubica probably in between.

      • @Landroni

        “Jense is obviously an incredibly talented individual, much like many of the underrated drivers such as Massa, Webber, Barrichello, Coulthard, Irvine, etc., etc.”

        Erm, If you say so…

        Incidentally, I never said he was bad. I did say he’s world class.

      • ” Let me second that. I remember how tense was his departure to McLaren from Brawn’s team after his WDC, and how Brawn was unhappy with that.” < < < < < < I wonder if that had to do more w/ the fact that RB knew he was going to ultimately have to hand over one of the Brawn cars, per JB's contract, or get sued (Which is what ultimately happened)?!? lol! 😉

    • @Lain:R8

      Yep, and I touch on that fact lower down in the article. I acknowledge his graft and my admiration for it. But the 2009 year in particular still stands out as a series of fortuitous circumstances that were very nearly wasted.

      As BJF pointed out. It’s not a career analysis but a veiw of these drivers title years. Which despite Damon being on the list, for 1996, is why I still admire his career.

  9. @SiS Actually, if any year was “lucky” (since I know you love that concept) for Seb it would have to be 2010 since it really was Webber’s to lose, IIRC.

    And lose it he did in rather unspectacular fashion, starting with Korea (no doing to the eternal brief of Mrs. Judge).

  10. What about 2004 when Button came a strong-ish and clear 3rd in a year totally dominated by Ferrari?

    • More impressive than that was 2002 – clearly ‘best of the rest’, while in 2004 the BAR-Honda was a very strong package.

  11. so another potshot at button…hmm.. the judge 13 guys really going to full lengths to malign a driver just for the sake of it, you keep doing that in every post of yours, day in day out, what is it? some sort of publicity stunt? you like being a critic? that’s cool be one, but don’t act like a malicious ex girlfriend who still hasn’t gotten over her breakup and ends up abusing her ex at any given chance. really dissapointing, if it was a one off thing then still it would be acceptable, but well…. it’s like reading a fanboy article, judge13(i used to think) is supposed to have standards, but i guess it has gone the petty media way

    • It is a “fan boy” article… It’s nothing to do with TJ13, outside of giving fans a voice. It’s in the “voice of the fans” section.

      As for “another pot shot at Button”, erm, I haven’t taken any before. I thought I was the resident bane of the Hamilfosi?

      Also if you digest the entire article, which admittedly is long, I think there is an acknowledgment that in the end this analysis counts for naught. That Button is a WDC, and that I’d rather be a “Button” over a “Moss”. That titles do matter. But we can acknowledge there may be a list of drivers luckier than others who won the WDC.

      Maybe re-read the flip side section and it’ll calm you down.

      • I don’t know if you’re hamilfosi or what, i’m not interested in that either. the thing is it’s easy to jump in, say things and leave,noone calls button the best driver on the grid, noone, calls him the second best driver on the grid either, anyways, i’m not really here to defend him, just a sad way things are taking turns here, taking digs at a single driver for….. welll.. lord knows what reason, anyways, happy mudslinging, just dissapointed with the way things get conducted here recently

  12. Admittedly as a Button sympathiser, mainly due to us sharing a nationality, he might not top the greatest ever list in an F1 poll but to be in F1 for for fourteen years without being a pay driver is pretty impressive. He won a title with the best car in the field but smashed his team mate in the same machinery in the first half of the season. A driver well up in the top 20 list of drivers not to win a championship on this very site.

    In 2010 he was still in the championship fight until the last few races. Let’s not forget Mark Webber was nowhere near Seb, bar 2010, in a car in a class of its own. Again a driver in a list of top drivers not to win a title.

    He’s getting a bit of a hard time I feel. He’s generally beaten all of his team mates throughout his career yet he gets talked of like he’s a slug with a fair of opposing thumbs behind a steering wheel.
    While not setting the world alight I still feel he’s worth that championship win. In the same way nobody would question if Barrichello or Webber had won a deserved title.

    • @tommo

      “While not setting the world alight I still feel he’s worth that championship win.”

      Ultimately, so do I. I say that in the article lower down.

      “In the same way nobody would question if Barrichello or Webber had won a deserved title”

      I disagree. Many would question it.

  13. I see you failed to add Hammy to that list. He deserves to be there too IMHO!

  14. Who was the unluckiest F1 driver (in terms of results, and setting aside the many tragic fatalities) ?

    • @Nigel

      Another article, for another time. Comments section isn’t long enough to explore and debate that particular point. Good question though…

      But just off the top of my head, in terms of titles (which is what this is about) I suppose Stirling Moss, who I see as the inverse to Jenson Button. A supremely talented driver, one of the best two or three of his generation, a champion without a world title.

      • How about Jean-Pierre Jabouille ?
        The stats for his last two seasons at Renault are quite striking:

        1979 15 races; 4 poles; 1 win; 10 retirements; 1 DNS
        1980 13 races; 2 poles; 1 win; 11 retirements; crashed & broke both legs, effectively ending his F1 career (also of note, he had led both of the races his teammate Arnoux won, before retiring with a blown turbo & puncture).
        The man who replaced him at Renault in 1981… Alain Prost

        Previously, he had led the 1978 Le Mans in the Renault A443, taking fastest lap, before its engine gave out three quarters of the way through, the race being won by Pironi in the (slower) A442B. Renault thereafter concentrated on F1…

      • Who was the unluckiest F1 driver …?

        “…off the top of my head, in terms of titles (which is what this is about) I suppose Stirling Moss, who I see as the inverse to Jenson Button. A supremely talented driver, one of the best two or three of his generation, a champion without a world title.”

        I know you guys specifically are discussing lack of luck as evidenced by results, but Pierre Levegh immediately came to my mind.

        Grim.

        • Max Chilton. Breaking a record in his rookie year and yet you guys still laugh at him 😂

        • I also heard that he was a very fast driver when he started.. and I would have to agree about his untimely end. Fangio believes he saved his life, by raising his hand before it all kicked off to indicate slowing/a tricky situation arising when Hawthorn moved to pit. Thus Levegh was hit, and not the great man..

          • “…Fangio believes he saved his life, by raising his hand before it all kicked off…”

            Wow, I had no idea about that detail.

            Thanks for sharing, mate.

  15. I read the entire piece and certainly appreciate the effort that @SiS put into writing it, which merits praise. And I am not going to make a big deal out of the fact that it’s extremely negative subjective opinion masquerading as credible “analysis”…analysis in which the author cunningly employs rhetorical trickery like mimicking the vocabulary of science and mathematics to convince the reader that some objective criteria have been satisfied lol.

    But I will quote these two excerpts, which appear contradictory, b/c

    We won’t know, but I suspect 2011 needs to be added to the growing list of Hamilton’s wasted opportunities that now include, in my opinion, 2007, 2010, 2012 and to this stage 2014 (given he is 2nd in the WDC in the best car).

    +

    Like Rosberg Jnr. is doing now, thought in my opinion if Rosberg Jnr. wins, he won’t join this list as he had to beat Hamilton for the title. The equation would spit him off qualifying for the list.

    = logically inconsistent

    That is to say, I find it strains credulity to claim that Hamilton is underperforming and “wasting” his opportunities in 2014, yet still suggest that Rosberg’s potential WDC could somehow be validated by the fact that he would’ve had to have beaten Hamilton to take the title!

    …a Hamilton who is ostensibly underperforming and throwing away victories that should rightfully be his, according to the author’s own arguments.

    • @ Joe Papp

      Thanks for the comment.

      Regarding the “trickery”, I think anyone who progressed past grade 5 knows the “equation” isn’t actually an equation. It’s simply a combination of subjective sporting factors that, if all met in one single year, may have created an environment of fortune that was not totally leveraged upon to place a driver on a “lucky WDC list”. Bit harsh, maybe, but it’s just some logic and a checklist to see why some feel the way they feel about certain world titles.

      As to the negativity… I think if the whole article is consumed, I myself say it’s irrelevant and Button pop’s out if this ok. You just gotta get to the end, not brain dead from the length.

      I won’t touch on the Hamilton points except to say even Lewis has referred to 2011 as his anus horribilus, also referring to admiring JB’s bubble at times during that year. I touched on 2011 only because JB’s star rose that year, apparently because of beating a team mate like LH, but I think it was more down to LH stuffing it than JB rising to the challenge. It’s not about ol’ diamond ears for a change.

      Again cheers for the comment mate.

      • Happy to comment, and hope you didn’t take it personally or feel too under-fire. Instead of “trickery” I was going to write “chicanery” but was worried that my playfully irreverent tone might be even less likely to be picked up on than it has been.

        I appreciate the effort that went into your piece, and while of course it is subjective and does give the vibe of an extremely personal approach to criticizing Button, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if a sports statistician in a few years’ time discovers Formula 1 exists and starts producing actual data analysis that could underpin harsh criticism of WDC’s based on a whole host of factors.

        At the end of the day, JB is still a WDC, he’s still won multiple GPs and he’s still had a 15 year career in Formula1 and acquitted himself amazingly well. And I bet he would rather have that undervalued, illegitimate or otherwise not-really-impressive WDC than an honorable second place! And who could blame him.

        I think the one thing that’s missing has been any evidence of Button claiming to be undisputed best and suggesting that Alonso, Kimi, et al. polish his shoes. JB maximized the potential that he had, utilizing every advantage he could find, and he became World Champ as a result. I’m glad he won 2009, especially b/c it was a factor in Merc’s return w/ Brawn.

        Carry on tho! We’re still on for that beer!!

        • @ Joe Papp

          “JB maximized the potential that he had, utilizing every advantage he could find, and he became World Champ as a result.”

          Totally agree. I say that in the article too, in my summary. I admire him for, as I said, “not wasting a drop of his potential or talent”. I admire his longjevity. And I also said that my analysis, in the end, counts for naught in the face of a world title. Even Alonso even said titles matter, not respect. I agree with that too.

          • Totally agree. I say that in the article too, in my summary.

            Yes, in all fairness you do conclude the article with a reasonable acknowledgement of the reality of Button’s successes, and throughout the comments you take pains to make clear that one “lucky” WDC is better than 1, 2, 3 even 4x runner-up or top-3!!

          • Yes its true. A world champion is a world champion. No matter how, no matter what. I didn’t like schumi ‘ s titles, as they where boring as hell, but he got em and that’s what counts. Same goes for button. In the end of the day (and the end of times) he’ll be the world champion of ’09

    • @Joe Papp

      “I read the entire piece and certainly appreciate the effort that @SiS put into writing it, which merits praise. And I am not going to make a big deal out of the fact that it’s extremely negative subjective opinion masquerading as credible “analysis”…analysis in which the author cunningly employs rhetorical trickery like mimicking the vocabulary of science and mathematics to convince the reader that some objective criteria have been satisfied”

      Let me second all of this.

      • @ Landroni

        Excerpt from article:
        “I’d like to forewarn Jenson Button fans that this isn’t going to be an aggrandizement of Button. He self-aggrandizes well enough I think. In short, this writer subscribes to the view that the man is not quite ‘Ichiban’ amongst his peers, or indeed even close to it, or ever has been. Possibly the greatest pretender…”

        In addition to my reply to Joe, it was at this point around word 100 of 2250apx, also armed with the knowledge of my modus operandi, that you could have not read it. You were warned. And I don’t position myself as an expert either, especially considering it’s a “voice if the fans” peice.

        Anyway, I do appreciate you reading it nonetheless.

    • While I can’t argue that SI’s analysis is slightly lacking in logical rigour, and the “let’s put some science into it” singularly failed to do so, it was interesting and taken as a whole far from ‘extremely’ negative.
      And it’s not as though his conclusions are wildly at odds with BlackJacks’ rather more credible statistical investigations.

      I would rate Button somewhat higher, but any such argument is necessarily subjective. Better to make the case for rather than rubbish the case against ?

  16. Incredible article, I love your writing style.

    When you put Kimi into the formula, what is the result? Can somebody argue Kimi’s why should not be on the the list? Afterall he had Massa for a team mate, and an implosion at McLaren which lead to his win.

    • Thanks for the nice words… Happy you enjoyed it.

      As for your Kimi questions, I can’t answer any. They’d spoil the third article in my series discussing all the competing WDC’s.

      Kimi is next… And please assume nothing, and everything. It’s as different to this article, as this article was to my Lewis Hamilton article.

      If you have not read it, it’s a two parter on Lewis Hamilton and discusses his (occasionally inadvertent) pioneering impact on F1, and our hearts and minds. I did coin the “Hamilfosi” term, but it gives him a fair cop… 😀

      http://thejudge13.com/2014/08/16/voice-of-the-f1-fans-lewis-hamilton-the-pioneer-part-i/

  17. SiS, thanks for the excellently written and very logical article. The Hamilton entries were also well done. I look forward to the piece on Kimi.

    I do wish that readers would take the time to understand your entire point of view prior to getting upset with you. Jenson is a nice guy, quality F1 driver, multiple race winner, but stumbled into a very fortunate situation in 2009. That’s all this is about.

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