The Right Decision?

March 6, 2014 at 9:02 pm
The right decision? We think so...

The right decision? We think so…

The cover of the June 8, 2000 cover of Autosport has in big red letters “OUT”. Jenson Button was to lose his seat at Williams in 2001 to Juan Pablo Montoya. Jenson was the rookie sensation in 2000 at Williams in only his third season of single seater racing but he was to lose his seat to the 1999 CART Champion and 2000 Indy 500 Winner Juan Pablo Montoya who Williams had an option on which came from Alex Zanardi’s move ¬†from Ganassi to Williams in 1999.

It was said that Williams were looking for someone to blow current driver Ralf Schumacher away and they expected Montoya to be the guy after his two stellar seasons in America. So, was it the right decision?

Montoya and Button raced against each other in F1 from 2001 to 2006. Montoya raced for Williams from 2001 to 2004 and McLaren from 2005 to 2006. During that same time period, Button raced for Benneton/Renault from 2001 to 2002 and BAR/Honda from 2003 to 2006. In 2001, Montoya won one race and finished 6th in the World Driver’s Championship while Button had no wins and finished 17th in points. So it was clear in the year after, that this was the right decision.

During Montoya’s Williams years he had 4 wins and finished 6th, 3rd twice and 5th in the WDC while during that time period Button had no wins and finished 17th, 7th, 9th and 3rd in the WDC. In 2005, Montoya joined McLaren and had three wins and finished 4th in the WDC while Button remained winless and finished 9th. In their final year together in F1, Montoya had no wins and finished 8th in the WDC while Button got his first win and finished 6th.

In their time together in F1, Montoya won 7 races and had an average WDC finish of 4.8 while Button had 1 win and an average WDC finish of 8.5.

So it’s clear based on the comparable numbers that Williams made the right decision. However, after Montoya left F1 for Nascar in 2007 things began to change. After two horrible years in Honda, Ross Brawn bought the team and Jenson became world champion in 2009 with 6 wins. Since moving to McLaren in 2010, Button has had eight wins and appears to have a chance to increase the total in the next few years.

So did Williams make the right move? At the time yes, Montoya was on fire after his CART title in 1999 and his dominant Indy 500 win in 2000. He was proven in F3000 and had the makings of being the next big star in F1. Looking at the time Montoya and Button spent together in F1 the decision was correct as Montoya had the better statistics. Button’s star didn’t shine until 2009 when he was given a lifeline (and a dominant car) by Brawn.