F1 2015 Driver Review: Jenson Button

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Jenson Button

Team: McLaren Honda
Car No.: 22
Races: 18
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 6th (USA)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 16
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 16th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

It’s been an odd year for both Jenson Button and McLaren. Following troublesome seasons in 2013 and 2014, 2015 was supposed to be the year that everything began to turn back in the right direction with the reforging of the famed partnership with Honda. In reality, the fortunes of the team nosedived, taking Button with them.

JB’s career has been full of trials and tribulations. His last experience with Honda back in 2008 was demoralizing, but this came as a greater surprise. Many thought that McLaren Honda would be bad in 2015 after the initial tests, but not this bad.

Button kept fighting as he always does. Points came when there wasn’t so much of an emphasis on engine power or grunt in Monaco and Hungary, and he managed to make the most of the madness in Austin to run up to sixth place thanks to the damp conditions.

But what else is there to say? Button has another season to move up the field after McLaren passed on its option to terminate his contract, and we can only hope that the Briton gets a better, deserved season in 2016.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

If there’s a positive to be said for the 2009 World Champion, it’s that Button’s been through as many valleys as peaks throughout his now 16-year career. And usually, in years following a dip in his car’s form, he’s been able to rebound nicely either the next year or the year after.

The less said about 2015 the better, quite frankly. Seeing Button and Fernando Alonso struggle to make it out of Q1 was just sad to watch. All the while, both drivers – publicly anyway – did a great job of sugarcoating how tough it was. To Button’s credit, on the few opportunities points were available, he seized them.

So the early guess is that 2016 has to better. In 2001, Button scored in only one race and finished 17th in points; he scored in seven and was seventh the next year. In 2008, of course, he was 18th in points, and courtesy of the miracle that was Brawn GP in 2009, he became the champ. Can another sub-teen points result come good with a distinct turnaround next year, if the reliability turns? We sure hope so.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).