A brief biography of McLaren driver Jenson Button, including his career history and Formula One statistics
One of the most popular of his generation of Formula One drivers, Jenson Button was always a precocious talent behind the wheel. He won his first karting race aged eight despite starting from the back in wet conditions. He was the British Cadet kart champion aged just ten, and the following season clinched the title a second time - by winning all 34 races.
After that, Button turned his sights to international competition. He was the youngest winner of the European Super A championship and the youngest runner-up in the Formula A world championship, and took the 1997 Ayrton Senna Memorial Cup at Suzuka before moving to single-seater competition in the British Formula Ford championship which he won in his maiden season with Haywood Racing. He was handed that year's McLaren/Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award and moved on to British Formula Three in 1999 where he took three victories, seven podiums and was third in the overall standings.
That led to Formula One tests with McLaren and Prost, but in the end it was Williams that signed him for a full season in 2000 at the age of 20, making him Britain's youngest-ever Grand Prix driver when he took the to the grid in Australia. He finished in the points for the first time the following race in Brazil, and ended up eighth in the drivers championship that year.
Button was loaned out to Benetton the following season but the car was unreliable and Button himself was consistently out-performed by his team mate Giancarlo Fisichella. He fared little better in 2002 when the team was rebranded by Renault, and he left for BAR. A frustrating season led to him seeking to break his contract with the team and return to Williams, but he was forced to stay on - and things soon turned around in 2004 when he secured his first career podium in Malaysia and went on to finish third in the championship behind Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.
After BAR was bought by Honda, Button took his first win in the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix in what was his 113th race start despite a ten-place penalty for an engine change. However his world was rocked in 2008 by Honda's abrupt decision to quit Formula One leaving the team in the hands of Ross Brawn. Between them they achieved the near-impossible, and Button picked up six wins and the 2009 world championship.
Button decided not to stay at Brawn when it was taken over by Mercedes and instead moved to McLaren where he successfully claimed a further eight race wins and was runner-up in the 2011 world championship. After that the team's fortunes went into a long-term decline which not even Button's talent and experience could overcome, and after 17 consecutive seasons in the sport he would take a sabbatical in 2017 with a view to a return to the grid in 2018.