No, I’m not talking about his decision not to go for the intermediate tyres like so many of his competitors at the beginning of the Chinese Grand Prix today, but his decision to drive for McLaren in 2010.
It was almost universal opinion last year that Jenson Button’s decision to leave Brawn GP and drive for McLaren was foolish. Even the most loyal fans questioned it and saw it as a risky manoeuvre.
On the face of it, it really didn’t make any sense:
- Why leave a Championship-winning team?
- Why leave a team where you are totally embedded into the team as the No.1 driver?
- Why risk going to another team that had made a truly awful car that year?
- Why risk being a team-mate to Lewis Hamilton, respected as being one of the very quickest drivers in F1?
- Why risk being team-mate to Lewis where he is already totally embedded into the team?
Fans and pundits alike came out (e.g. Jackie Stewart andNigel Mansell) to criticise the decision or, at least, to say that Button would struggle against Hamilton in the first year.
Jenson said he needed a bigger challenge to motivate himself and on closer inspection you could almost understand that driving against Nico Rosberg he would not enhance his reputation, he could only damage it. If he drove against Lewis, with most people seeing Hamilton as the better driver, he could enhance his reputation and would not damage it that much if he wasn’t as quick.
Like most people, I was very surprised at his decision to go to McLaren, but the more I thought about it, the more I understood his motives. I think the reality is that he really does want the challenge. He has proved he can win a World Championship and now he wants to prove to himself he can go up against the very best drivers in the same equipment.
So far, after the 4th Grand Prix in Shanghai, he has proved a lot of people very wrong which is always nice to see. There is a long way in the Championship to go, but already Jenson has proved that he and Lewis are closely matched, but clearly are very different drivers.
Jenson Button is leading the championship and has won 50% of the races this year so far. His decision-making skills are clearly as good as his driving.