The promise and optimism of his first F1 season seemed like a long time ago – probably because it was. Seven seasons is an age in Grand Prix racing and for Jenson Button a lot of water had flowed since that bright debut at Williams in 2000, aged just 20.
Much of that water had been turbulent, but he’d survived the rapids with dignity intact. After all, he always had been good in the wet.
Amid the turmoil of an increasingly political Ferrari versus Renault championship battle, F1 arrived in usually balmy Budapest only to discover meteorological storm clouds too. The weekend started badly for Button and his Honda team, a spectacular engine failure landing him a 10-place grid penalty. He would start 14th.
But in mixed conditions, Button stealthily climbed the order while others lost their heads: Kimi Räikkönen dozed off and slammed into the Toro Rosso of Tonio Liuzzi; Michael Schumacher raced erratically on poorly performing Bridgestone tyres, eventually breaking a track rod after starting a penalised 11th; while Fernando Alonso, who started a place behind Button after also being docked places for brake-testing Robert Doornbos in practice, lost a wheel after a botched Renault pitstop.
But despite the travails of others, few could begrudge Button his first victory since Formula 3, especially as he had won through intelligence, racecraft and that uncanny knack of reading the trickiest conditions.
With what we know now, how strange it seems that until 2009 and the Brawn GP phenomenon Button looked set to be remembered as a modern equivalent of Jean-Pierre Beltoise: one GP win scored, on a day of days when rain levelled the playing field. Just as well for Jenson that water kept flowing. DS
About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…
This was a special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.
It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…
Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.
Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!
Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.