Towards the middle of December 2023, , when a piece of information arrived that former Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button had confirmed a full-time return in 2024 in the World Endurance Championship Hypercar class, the development was no ordinary news.
It was a massive occurrence for racing fans who were delighted endlessly with the prospect of a driver returning to a sport he once took to heights in his own unique style.
Even as Formula 1 formed the core entity and sphere of Jenson Button’s excellence, his grit and adaptability to other forms of four wheel motorsport racing endeared the Englishman to tens of hundreds of fans around the world.
It was in 2023 itself that Jenson Button raced at the Le Mans Chevrolet ‘Garage 56’ entry.
And now it’s confirmed that Button is all set to join the Hertz team Jota line-up for the World Endurance Championship, where he will be piloting one of the two Porsche 963s.
His teammates on this occasion in 2024 includes a fellow Englishman- Philip Hanson; the other being Oliver Rasmussen.
However, this is bound to be no ordinary racing challenge for the racer who once competed in the prime spectre of motor racing; it’ll be a massive opportunity to take head on one of the biggest challenges in the world of motor racing: including the 24 hours of Le Mans, which is a legendary contest that’s traversed several decades altogether.
And it is during this whirlwind challenge where Jenson Button, ever the gent, shall get a chance to race once again at the venues where he once raced during his time in Formula 1- such as Bahrain, Fuji, Interlagos and Spa, among others.
As a matter of fact, the prospect of seeing Button seated inside a “Mighty 38”, for Hertz Team Jota is something that is as enterprising as it is exciting.
After all, it is the chance of seeing a lanky and capable driver teaming in a fast machine albeit in an equally imposing and lanky challenge; one that can be exasperating and certainly not suitable for all racing genes.
But since when has Jenson Button been a softie; even during his most frustrating period during the McLaren F1 stint where he hardly got a chance at scoring points thanks to driving a car that was anything but meant for proper wheel-to-wheel racing, he never complained. Seldom did he appear frustrated in the 2015 and 2016 seasons even as his then legendary Spanish teammate Fernando Alonso decried the recalcitrant machine, exclaiming in no uncertain terms, “GP2 engine.”
Jenson, on the other hand, was calm and composed even as he may have been bitterly disappointed standing sixteenth and fifteenth in the 2015 and 2016 FIA world championships, respectively.
He drove with grace the horrid, utterly undrivable McLaren MP4-30 and 31 V6 machines.
But at his peak, Button, the 2009 world champion, showed the grid that excellence could be achieved despite not driving the most expensive or massacring machine on the grid whose name was McLaren or Ferrari.
That he didn’t even need a Red Bull to win a world title and showed a decade and a half back that greatness could be achieved by simply aligning unrelenting focus with temerity was testament of his character.
In what was a highly unusual year for the sport, Button, who’s turned 44 today, somehow found himself paired with a rapid and exceptionally performant Brawn BGP 001 machine. He used it to full advantage despite competing with a quartet of mega racing talents at that time in Raikkonen, Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel.
All of whom had little answer to Button’s dauntless pace. Mega victories in Malaysia, Australia, Monaco, Bahrain and Spain laid the perfect template to a season where the man from Somerset was found to be simply unstoppable. Perhaps even to this day, his valiant second at Monza is one of the sport’s more under appreciated performances; Button beat a usually blitzy Raikkonen by a margin as comprehensive as nearly 22 seconds.
But despite attaining peak fame and with it, much reverence, for it’s not everyday that one trumps a competitive grid to become a champion, Button’s intrinsic character remained that of a true sportsman and a gentleman.
Never the one to wax lyrical about the sport needlessly nor someone who’d make rivals off the grid, for his simplicity and utterly focused nature, Jenson Button remained and perhaps still is, one of the most well liked personalities of Formula 1.
With 15 wins to his name and a half century of podium finishes; Button might not have been among the fastest to grace the rampant sport called F1 and yet remains one of its finest to have ever graced the grid. A handsome man boasting features that could be likened to a pinup idol, Button elegantly paved way for the “Buttonmania” in F1.
Urbane and eloquent, gentle and smart, Button’s played decently and honestly life’s changing parts.
The deserving winner of the BBC 2009 Sports Personality Of The Year Award and a darling of the Top Gun community, Jenson Button even partook and to much success several ultra challenging endeavours such as Mountain-biking and Triathlons.
It’ll really be a pleasure to see how the always-so-gentle and always accommodating man who sports a smile and never a frown gets around doing his 2024 racing endeavours.
Here’s wishing a thorough gentleman all the best for today and the rest of the year ahead.