Jenson Button returned to Williams in 2021 as a senior advisor, 21 years after making his F1 debut in a glove outfit in 2000. The teams are currently in very different positions, as are the buttons. He looked back on the rookie campaign. August 11, 2016 issue of Autosport Magazine.
The turning point of the new millennium will be forever imprinted in Jenson Button’s memory. Not because he was afraid that the world would end, but because he was afraid that the Y2K bug would land the plane and disrupt the worldwide transportation network. No, 2000 marks something much more important to him-the beginning of his F1 career.
Fifteen years before Max Verstappen jumped directly from Formula 3 into F1 and sent a shock wave in a single-seater race, Button also passed through the international carting scene, Formula Ford and F3 in the UK to reach the pinnacle of sport. Did.
Such movements were not so unusual at the time. Jarno Trulli did it just a few seasons ago. Alain Prost did so as he banned a few F2 races on the side. Oh, and there was a man named Ayrton Senna da Silva. Winner of the 1998 McLaren Autosport BRDC Awards and finished third in British F3 in 1999-making him the top rookie-the big button Grand Prix break came with Williams.
But his first proper taste in F1 was “shocked” by how good the buttons were when his friend Serge Sarnier first tested Solnier’s Promatekme F3 team on the Magny course. After saying that, in the winter of 1998, I had Prost watching the button.
“At that time, I was on vacation in Mexico,” recalls Button, who is now the F1 World Champion and has won the 15 Grand Prix and is the most experienced driver on the grid. “I got a call from the manager. [Prost] I want you to test the car. ” Before that, I was driving McLaren at Silverstone, but it was dry and wet around the national circuit.
“I only tested once with Prost [at Barcelona] -The engine exploded on lap 33! It was actually a really good car. Nick Heidfeld finally ran new tires on low fuel and took the time. But my time was enough to be faster than Jean Alesi the day before. He was their racing driver at the time, so I was very happy with the test! I didn’t have a race seat, so I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. [Prost had Alesi and Heidfeld under contract]..
“They said’Maybe F3000′, but I really didn’t want to do F3000. [natural] In the direction, I didn’t like the car at all-it was huge, just a car box. After meeting Alain several times, I had the opportunity to test Williams. “
“I was 6th in the first race and 7th and 6th in the second race. At that time, it was very difficult to finish in 6th place …” Jenson Button
After being disappointed in F1, Williams agreed to release Alex Zanardi, who won the double CART title, and was looking for a driver. I wanted to bring Zanardi’s successor back from the US as CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya (contract until 1997), but Chip Ganassi just signed a new engine contract with Toyota and didn’t have time to find an alternative driver. did. So Williams agreed to wait another year before taking Montoya to F1.
Williams needed someone to fill the gap. The next engine supplier, BMW, pushed sports car ace Jorg Müller (Williams wasn’t too keen). Japanese F3 King Darren Manning was also considered (he tested for Williams in Jerez in December 1999). However, the promising Brazilian Bruno Junqueira was a favorite, testing Williams in Monza in the fall of 1999 and enjoying a strong season with the team’s Petrobras Junior F3000 feeder team.
However, Button’s Prosttest also shook, and after a Christmas call from Frank Williams (I thought Button was a prank at first), he headed to Jerez and confronted Junkeira directly. However, Button testing didn’t start well.
“It broke down three times a day, just as three engines broke down a day,” he explains. “One on the stand, up to turn 4, and up to turn 6-both are on the outlap, so they weren’t actually tested.”
Subsequent runs on the Catalunya circuit in Barcelona were more productive. Button and Junkeira were hard to split. Most engineers liked Junqueira, but Button was slightly faster. Williams felt that he might have even greater potential given his relatively inexperience, so Brit finally agreed to partner with Ralf Schumacher.
After pre-season testing in Kyalami, Silverstone and Barcelona, Button headed to Melbourne and made his Grand Prix debut at the age of only 20. On the first lap from the pit, he chased Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari around the track.
“He was just a double champion at the time, but running behind him-this guy I’ve been watching for years-was pretty good,” Button recalls. “And the sound of the V10 was great. With the condition of the floor and the way the leaves fall from the tree, the first car to get out got a leaf ondori tail. It’s very special.”
The button got off to a rough start, actually crashed and passed qualifying in the last row of the grid. However, he enjoyed a strong first lap and ran to fourth place (certainly in attrition) before lack of reliability hindered his debut point finish.
“At some point I was running fourth, but when the engine exploded, I was running sixth,” says Button. “I was angry. Then I went to Brazil and had fun there. And I remember pushing Jos Verstappen into a hairpin and finishing in 7th place. Then DC [David Coulthard] I was disqualified and got points!
“I was told when I was on the bus to the airport. I had a few drinks along the way. It was crazy. I finished 6th in the first race, then 7th and 6th in the second race. At that time, it was very difficult to finish in 6th place … “
Button finished 6th and 5th in the British Grand Prix, and despite “running with 9 cylinders in the last 20 laps”, he overtook Michael Schumacher at the start and scored points, but with his teammates in qualifying. I had a hard time matching and suffered. The reliability of the first half of the season is low.
“I was about 0.5 seconds away from Ralph, so the winter test was tough. It really took me a while to increase my pace,” Button admits. “Most of the time I was braking. How hard can I brake as late as possible? I’m not confident because I’m not used to big downforce.
“I was completely profound because I had no actual experience in car racing. At that time you didn’t have a simulator. I had no engineering experience and no one knew how important it was to the driver. I didn’t really know. I’m fast, but on the engineering side I didn’t know what I was doing. “
Button survived the second half of the spin and finished fifth from a low start in Austria, but one better in the next race in Germany. When Rubens Barrichello charged from 18th on the grid and won Ferrari’s emotional first win, Button managed a similar heroic to finish in 4th. This will be the best result of the season in F1.
“I was completely profound because I had no experience in car racing. At that time you didn’t have a simulator.” Jenson Button
“When I put the clutch on during the green flag lap, the engine had just shut off, so I started last,” Button recalls. “I went through and chased DC for about a second on each lap. [at the end].. It was a pity that I just ran out of laps. “
He was confident that he would take the best third place of the season and defeat the podium ducks, just as Button finally finished fifth at the spa.
“It was very frustrating,” says Button. “I had to try to overtake Trulli, but it crashed. [into him] And finished in 5th place. Annoyingly, Ralph was standing on the podium and thought, “It must have been me!” “
However, the spa at least showed how far Button has come as a Grand Prix driver, marking the beginning of a run that outqualifies his experienced teammates in three of the last five races.
“He was fast-as Juan Pablo always said,” says Ralf Schumacher’s Button. “He wasn’t very consistent, but definitely his day was fast.”
After being caught up in a sudden slowdown in the top order before the safety car restarted, and after crashing from the top 6 in Monza, Button emphasized Saturday’s form improvement by disqualifying his teammates again at Suzuka. did. This feat was even more impressive given that he had never raced a car in Japan before. Schumacher, meanwhile, won the 1996 Formula Nippon title before graduating from F1 with Jordan.
“On the first day, I was 0.5 seconds away from Ralph in the first sector, just past the snake,” says Button, who finished fifth on the grid. In the thrilling pole battle between title rivals Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen.. “Then I was about three tenths faster than him [in that sector].. It was a great experience. Driving a car through Esses requires real confidence, especially in that case. No spill … “
Button finished the rookie season in 8th place in the championship with half the points of his teammates. He was recognized as the “Rookie of the Year” at Autosport Awards in December and made enough effort to move to Benetton Renault in 2001 as Montoya finally joined Williams.
A one-year ticket for Button with Frank’s team will eventually prove to be the beginning of something very big.
From the archive: The last spell of the button with Williams | F1 News
https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/154708/from-the-archive-button-last-spell-with-williams From the archive: The last spell of the button with Williams | F1 News