Jenson Button makes shock Red Bull reveal on eve of Brawn GP documentary

Oliver Harden
Jenson Button, Brawn GP

Jenson Button celebrates after clinching the 2009 title at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Jenson Button has revealed that he approached Christian Horner with a view to joining Red Bull prior to winning the World Championship with Brawn GP in 2009. 

Button’s career was left in limbo after Honda suddenly withdrew from F1 in December 2008 amid the global financial crisis, leaving the British driver without a seat.

Only one F1 drive – belonging to Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso, now competing as AlphaTauri – was unconfirmed at the time of Honda’s withdrawal, with Button reaching out to Horner in a frantic search for a career lifeline.

Jenson Button approached Red Bull after Honda F1 exit

Button’s story had a happy ending when Honda F1 team principal Ross Brawn purchased the team himself, with the team reaching a deal to run Mercedes engines for 2009. Button went on to win six of the first seven races to establish a healthy lead in the Drivers’ standings.

Although Brawn’s lack of development hurt them in the second half of the season – with Button failing to win a race beyond June as team-mate Rubens Barrichello triumphed at Valencia and Monza – Button held on to win the title by 11 points from Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.

Appearing on British television show This Morning ahead of the release of a new documentary on his title-winning 2009 season, Button admitted that he attempted to join the Red Bull system in the immediate aftermath of Honda’s exit.

Asked if he had any idea that Brawn GP would be such a success, he said: “No, no. I tried to get out of it, because the team didn’t look like it was going to exist.

“So I asked around and my manager spoke to Christian Horner about a drive at his team and the junior team and they said: ‘No, all the contracts are done.’ So then it’s like: ‘OK, well let’s work hard to make this happen.’

“We found some people that were interested in owning the team, but I don’t think it would have worked out that way.

“Ross coming in and actually buying the team for a pound, with his leadership, is a big reason why this worked out.

“We had to cut and shut the car as well. The car was made to work with one type of [Honda] engine and then we had to go and ask – plead – for somebody to give us an engine to put in the back, to fit it in the car.”

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Despite the dramatic circumstances behind his title triumph, Button insisted that 2009 was no “fluke” with the BGP 001 car a product of years of development by Honda in the build up to F1’s 2009 regulation changes.

And he revealed that Brawn’s instant pace-setting speed after arriving late to pre-season testing in Barcelona, which came after a short shakedown at Silverstone’s Stowe circuit, was the moment that confirmed the team’s existence was worth fighting for.

He said: “A lot of money was spent on this car. It’s not a fluke that we were competitive in 2009, but then we had to get another engine and the guys did an amazing job of fitting it together.

“We went testing, we were quickest at the first test that we did and everyone had been testing for days before that. So that’s when it clicked and we thought we’ve got something strong.”

Brawn was bought out by Mercedes at the end of 2009, but remained as team principal until the end of the 2013 season.

The former Ferrari man – who went on to spend almost six years as F1’s managing director of motorsports following Liberty Media’s takeover in 2017 –  is credited for establishing the platform for Mercedes’ domination of the early years of the V6 hybrid era from 2014 with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

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