6 – Jenson Button
Many expected Jenson Button to fall flat on his face upon joining title-winning predecessor Lewis Hamilton at McLaren-Mercedes in F1 2010 – some, you sensed, were even willing for such a scenario to materialise. For those that were, Jenson would leave them sorely disappointed.
He might have been the defending world champion heading into the campaign, but the cynics predicted that Button would not last a moment in Hamilton's lair, and that he would be eaten alive by his countryman for having had the brazen audacity to enter his
team in the foolishly misguided belief that he would be able to take him on and beat him.
Fast forward four races, and the man leading the world championship, the only double-winner of the year to-date...was Jenson Button. Hamilton lay fourth, and would not triumph for another three grands prix. How the tables had turned – and what's more, the pair got on famously.
However, those two sublime tactical victories in Australia and China – as Button read the changeable weather conditions better than any other driver in the field, with his deft touch behind the wheel and careful tyre-management paying dividends – would turn out to be the British star's only successes of the season.
He came close to ascending the top step of the podium again at Monza, but whilst there were a number of further strong performances along the way – with impressive back-to-back rostrum finishes in Istanbul, Montreal and Valencia and a searing charge through the field following a poor qualifying effort on home turf at Silverstone – McLaren's drop-off in form following the summer break seemed to hurt Button more than it did Hamilton.
The Jenson Button who harried his team-mate all the way to the chequered flag both in Brazil and the Abu Dhabi finale marked a late return to his early-season competitiveness, but just a swift glance at his first four results – seventh, first, eighth, first – betrays the kind of inconsistency that bedevilled the 30-year-old's challenge for glory, and he was indeed the first of the five title protagonists to fall out-of-the-reckoning at Interlagos.
Still a brilliant overtaker and with his racecraft remaining unquestionable – 16 points finishes from 19 starts is a pretty good strike rate by any standards – Button knows that if he is to achieve his objective of stepping up to the plate and really taking the fight to Hamilton in 2011, it is his qualifying form that leaves the most room for improvement. If he can make progress there, his detractors may just be forced to swallow their words altogether.
Statistics – Jenson Button:
1st (Australia, China)
Crash.net's Top 10 F1 drivers of 2010:
6. Jenson Button
7. Nico Rosberg
8. Rubens Barrichello
9. Heikki Kovalainen
10. Nico Hülkenberg
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