F1 2016 Driver Review: Jenson Button

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Jenson Button

Team: McLaren
Car No.: 22
Races: 21
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 6th (Austria)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 21
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 15th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Despite having an option to race for McLaren in 2018, Jenson Button has most likely made his final start in Formula 1. 2016 was hardly a vintage year for the Briton, fading into the shadow of McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso and appearing somewhat disillusioned with life in F1.

There were a couple of occasions where Button impressed. Austria was perhaps his finest hour, qualifying a remarkable third and even running second for a while before eventually finishing the race sixth. Hockenheim was another high point, finishing eighth.

Otherwise, there was little to report in the way of good news. Button scored just five extra points from 2015 to 2016 despite McLaren’s significant progress, with his amusing radio calls instead being the most memorable part of the campaign.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Button’s roller coaster F1 career had one more downslope in 2016, and in some respects, it was painful to see his last two full seasons coincide with McLaren Honda’s struggles on track. Button has a soulful relationship with both brands – he’s long considered Japan his second home, and McLaren provided his career the continued shot of glory after his Brawn GP title win in 2009. Yet the last two years for Button have mirrored the 2007-2008 struggles in the Honda factory team, not the six years in-between from 2009 through 2014.

While Button’s 2016 season was better than last year, that’s not saying much at all. Fernando Alonso’s points totals increased from 11 to 54, while Button’s only went from 16 to 21. Other than Austria, the Button of old was nowhere to be found.

If he had a proper car at his disposal it could be great to see him ride off into the sunset that way. Alas, his great personality and humor brought to the paddock will be missed. Forever a World Champion, Button signs off after more than 300 races.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.