Magnussen vs Button: Who’ll Win?

Date published: October 26 2014

What are the pros and cons of the Jenson vs Kevin argument – Andrew Davies weighs in…

  • There’s no doubt that Kevin Magnussen has great single lap speed and despite being a rookie leads Jenson in the qualifying battle 9-7.
  • When it comes to racing, though, Button is a long way down the road, leading the Dane 94-49 in points scored. In the 14 times they’ve both finished, Jenson has been ahead 12 times out of the 14. And the difference would have been bigger but for a late-race retirement for Jenson in Singapore. The current Team-Mate Wars score is an overwhelming 13-3 to Jenson.
  • There is no question that Magnussen would be a lot lighter on the wage bill than Button. But he would also be far less attractive to sponsors, such as Santander. Jenson Button is instantly recognizable and has fronted up TV and poster campaigns for the bank in the UK and neither Magnussen or Alonso would be able to do the same.
  • Both Jenson and Kevin are good in mixed conditions, but Button’s ability to judge grip on a damp track is unmatched anywhere down the grid. His win for McLaren at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix was the perfect example of that. Similarly, in Suzuka this year, he made up a great number of places by switching to Intermediates on the first lap after the Safety Car came in. His win at the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix is one of the best of all time.
  • Kevin has been prone to contact in his opening season, mixing it on the opening lap with Kimi Raikkonen more than once and hitting his wing in Malaysia and further contact in Bahrain. In Belgium he was close to taking both Hulkenberg and Alonso out of the race (the latter of which could have been an incident bigger than Fernando’s Grosjean/La Source accident). He also got a penalty for pushing Valtteri Bottas over the first chicane kerbs in Italy.
  • Jenson has a high profile in Japan. He has a beautiful Japanese girlfriend and the scenes at Suzuka with Jessica Michibata, the year of the devastation of 2011 (when there were worries that the race might not even be run) will live long in the memory.
  • Button knows how the Japanese company works. He was with BAR-Honda, which morphed into Honda, from 2003-08 and so has both a great depth of cultural insight and the way to approach problems in the company – something that even Fernando Alonso (sometimes described as a “difficult” personality) might struggle with.
  • Jenson was also the first Honda F1 team race winner since 1967. In 2006 he won the Hungarian Grand Prix from 14th on the grid to take the Japanese marque’s comeback win. Another stunning win in mixed conditions.
  • Jenson can be a bit of a ginger whinger at times, but mostly because he likes the car to be perfectly balanced, and is less adept than former team-mate Lewis Hamilton at driving round problems.
  • Honda will be on a steep learning curve in 2015 and need experience, not just in the hybrid engines of 2014, but in relating engine power to traction and the vital experience of managing tyres that Jenson can bring after 15 seasons in the sport.
    Conclusion: Button represents a no-risk option to a team (McLaren) that needs to maximise its sponsorship potential following a year when it has no title sponsor. He can also help give Honda the maximum amount of feedback in what could be a troublesome debut year back in F1. Magnussen’s racing style is more abrasive and aggressive than Button’s and he can certainly get the most out of the car on a single lap, but loses out in races. A one-year step-back to reserve driver for Magnussen, while Button helps start the new Honda era has got to be the best use of their drivers.*
    Andrew Davies
    *Although with the prospect of 3-car teams brought ever closer by Caterham and Marussia failing to show up in the USA, the whole argument might become academic!