Why 2014 Is Make or Break for Jenson Button's Formula 1 Future

Fraser Masefield@@fmasefieldContributor IDecember 17, 2013

Jenson Button has a hungry young teammate in Kevin Magnussen for 2014
Jenson Button has a hungry young teammate in Kevin Magnussen for 2014Mark Thompson/Getty Images

At 33 years of age, Jenson Button is now the elder statesman on the Formula One grid.

Button’s career at the top level of motorsport has spanned 14 seasons since he burst onto the scene for Williams in 2000. And he’s enjoyed his fair share of success, from becoming world champion with Brawn in 2009 to being runner-up to Sebastian Vettel in 2011.

But after enduring one of his least successful seasons in 2013, Button will be under pressure to perform against a hungry young teammate in the form of Kevin Magnussen.

Should the Dane get the upper hand, Button may wonder if time has finally caught up with him and he should consider his F1 future.

Half way through the 2012 season, when interviewed by the Daily Mail, Button said retirement from the sport was something he had considered, via ESPNF1:

It's on my mind. In any sport, the trick is to retire at the right time. So many drivers say they look forward to retiring from F1 and they can't wait to live a more leisurely life. After four months away from it, they go stir crazy because they miss the constant buzz.

Yet there are reasons to believe that the fire burns as strongly as ever in Button's belly, and he will enjoy more success in 2014. Here’s why.

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His teammate is inexperienced

Although Magnussen impressed the McLaren team significantly enough for them to jettison Sergio Perez, Button himself said in November it was a risky move to promote the youngster, via Mike Wise of Sky Sports:

It's definitely one of those positions where it could light up your career or it could put an end to your career very early.

It's a massive risk for a driver, to be put in the deep end with a team that's fighting at the front, or should be. But if a driver's willing to take that risk then he's got a lot of confidence in himself and his ability.

It could go one way or the other. I hope it goes the positive way because he's someone I want to work with throughout the year and he needs to be in a good frame of mind. 

Magnussen won the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and has impressed in testing, but he is very much an unproven quantity. Magnussen must be hoping the new regulations will boost his chances of competing with the more experienced F1 drivers, as everyone has to learn how to drive the new cars from scratch.

But there is no substitute for experience. If anyone can adapt to the new rules better than anyone else, it should be Button.

Button has seen his fair share of regulation changes over the years, from dealing with driving with and without traction control to significant tyre changes and shifts in aerodynamic regulations.

Button’s smooth style of driving and tactical nous have drawn comparisons to the great Alain Prost in the past, and he has already taken a keen interest in how the new rules will require him to adapt as a driver:

I've always said all year with the new regulations, it's important to have a teammate that's got experience. Kevin doesn't have that, but his outright speed is very good and the bit that's more important for me is the tests he's done in a F1 car.

One way is that experience doesn't count for so much these days because of the new regulations. It's a completely new way of driving a racing car—which it will be next year. So there's that way, and you'd say he's in a good position. But then there's also the other side: With an experienced driver, he knows what he can do with a car to adjust it, to develop it and move it forward. In lower formulae you don't have that, you don't really change that much.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but my money’s on Button to teach youngster Magnussen a thing or two about driving in 2014.

The hunger still burns brightly

Button has often stated his desire to add more world championship titles to his CV before he exits the sport and his desire is to do it with McLaren.

The Englishman’s current contract expires at the end of the 2014 season, and it is an open secret that team boss Martin Whitmarsh is pursuing Fernando Alonso for a possible return to the sport in 2015, as reported by the Daily Mail.

But such a notion is not even on Button’s radar, and with Honda set to renew its famous partnership with McLaren in 2015, his only immediate goal is to win another title before he calls it a day:

Red Bull have done a great job—they really have to win four championships on the trot. But the rules haven’t really changed much over these four years, and now they will change a lot. I go into 2014 as a team thinking we can win. But whether we produce the car or not, that is another question.