It is the end of the 2014 season and attention already falls on next year’s incumbent and how the grid may take shape. The formula and characteristics needed to maintain a drive in Formula 1 is becoming more and more complex by the season as money, technical changes and a the birth of Mercedes dominance marks the start of a new era.
The rumour mill is spinning out of control and the obligatory bluffing has begun. The circus started with Sebastian Vettel and his decision to leave Red Bull after more than fifteen years under their guidance and with four world championships to his name. He will partner Kimi Raikkonen at an ailing Ferrari but where does this leave Fernando Alonso and the man he has been tipped to replace, McLaren’s Jenson Button?
For now, it is mere speculation and all attempts to ask Ron Dennis end with a response that neither confirms nor denies any rumours. It is of course possible that both drivers will lead the new McLaren-Honda age into its first year but for the sake of argument, here is a comparison between two of the most respected drivers on the grid. Well, arguably anyway.
Jenson Button made his F1 début at the Australian Grand Prix in 2000 with his Spanish rival joining the grid exactly one year later for Minardi. Most recently, Max Verstappen’s relative inexperience has been compared to that of Button – the Briton joined F1 after only two years out of karts. However, it is in fact Alonso who contested fewer junior championships before his first grand prix start. Alonso is the fourth youngest driver in history to start a race (as of November 2014) while Button rests at joint ninth.
Button secured his first win at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix at his 113th race, starting from fourteenth to storm through the field. Alonso first stood atop the podium at the same circuit in 2003 eighteen months after his début in what was his second season with Renault. The Spaniard’s 2014 team mate Raikkonen is the only other driver from the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix to have contested the most recent season.
Between them, they can boast (not that they would) three world championships – Alonso’s coming from his time at Renault in 2005 and 2006 when Michael Schumacher’s reign of dominance came to an end. Button’s title came in 2009 when Brawn grew from the ashes of an ailing Honda. His extra season in F1 over Alonso ensured Button was the most experienced driver on the 2014 grid with 266 starts by the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In contrast, Alonso has contested 235 throughout his fourteen year career.
The table below depicts more statistics for easy comparison. The final three columns depict the driver’s position in the championship at the end of the season.
*The drivers’ initials are listed alphabetically. This order is not intended to reflect any bias. No conclusion has been drawn from the data – instead you are invited to form your own opinion based on the evidence shown above.